Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What the River Said

A few rays of winter sunlight find the edge of the river bed with its drifts of meringue snow, its gloss of ice and its current of small stones.

In May, there were small rippling waterfalls and gurgling music all up and down the length of the little hillside river, and I passed many happy (and soggy) hours engaged in a favorite activity which has come to be known among my clan as "tuning the waterfalls". Attired in high rubber boots and with hoe in hand, I traveled the length and breadth of the little river now and again, removing leaves, sticks and other debris so that the water could sing as it so clearly wished to sing on its merry way downhill.

Tuning waterfalls is a Zen kind of activity and an exercise in mindfulness. One must stop hoeing once and a while to receive instructions from the river, and she must listen to what the water is saying. She must be truly present and engaged in the activity at hand, the simple uncluttered (or uncluttering) matter of helping the river sing. Among the small flowing movements required, there is always time for working on koans too, and one never removes all the fallen leaves, pebbles and sticks but leaves a few to act as grace notes in the wild hillside symphony. As Wendell Berry wrote:

"There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."

Perhaps Life itself is the koan? Now there is silence, but I still hear the river singing over the stones, and for this ever baffled and oft impeded elderly female, that is a fine thing.

5 comments:

Tabor said...

It does look just like meringue, doesn't it?

judy said...

Cate, you inspire me to be my Truest Self, when you talk like that!

liliannattel said...

"The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."

That is beautiful. (And I must be fully employed!)

bev said...

Oh, that is such a beautiful photo!

Jaliya said...

Oh, dear ... I'm working a *lot* of overtime ... ;-D

Thank you, Cate. This wisdom couldn't have come at a better time.