I was running at a high school track near my house, when I looked into the sky and unexpectedly realized my aging and eventual death as a distinct fact. These random moments probably come to everyone in the course of our busy lives, and we are momentarily surprised by them only to rush back into whatever we were doing. Sometimes dramatic, sometimes less so, but as I grow older, I’m understanding that I need to pay more attention, to stay with these moments without sinking into mere morbidity.
Large white clouds were moving briskly overhead, although it wasn’t really windy at all. As they moved, they shifted shape, came together and tore apart, all the while traveling towards the north in a steady, orderly fashion – keeping pace through their own continual creation and destruction.
At the same time, shadows appeared and disappeared repeatedly in the corner of my left eye – “floaters,” as I recently learned from a new presence in my life, an eye doctor. An early sign of my body’s fragility in aging, the goo in my left eye is starting to detach itself from the eye’s inner wall, creating brief, bright flashes at night and shadows during the day that can look like tiny hairs stuck on a camera lens. The doctor told me I can expect the same in the right eye in 1-2 years from now. There really isn’t a cure; it’s just, as is said, “part of growing older.” And so it went: the clouds in my eye, the clouds overhead, morphing, detaching, breaking up and dissolving over time.
At moments like this, I come back to what I see as the point of my Zen practice: to appreciate everything, to understand life as a human being on this planet as an incredibly lucky gift of very short duration. Knowing that parts of me are starting to fail on the journey, how can I best carry on with what’s left? As the Han Recitation goes at the end of every night of a sesshin:
I humbly proclaim before the Sangha/Resolving the matter of life and death is of prime importance/Everything bears the mark of impermanence/Everything passes quickly by like a fleeting arrow/Let everyone be mindful each moment/Do not let a moment pass by unaware!
This will no longer be strictly a poetry journal, but a Zen practice journal that includes poetry. Keeping a journal, as writers much better than me have learned, is one of the best ways to help someone write more regularly. I figure I have a quarter of one century left to be here, give or take – if I’m really lucky. I have had a strong love of reading and writing since I was very young, but have too often consigned writing to “when I get time.” Time is not in quite the abundant supply it used to be. In fact, it was never really in supply at all. The only real time, as I am learning through my practice, is what the 13th century Zen master Dogen called “being-time”: right now.
Clouds overhead, clouds in my left eye
Appearing, disappearing –
The blank blue sky