My ears are soaked with the pummeling sound of water, a white curtain roaring over a down cedar snag, roiling the clear pool below. The current dashes downhill, forking around an oblong boulder, riddled with holes, childhood scars left when heated air burbled from fiery young liquid, barely escaping near eternity in a cell of cold stone.
Below the pocked boulder, the stream rejoins itself in mindless continuity, a herd of water molecules tethered by hydrogen bonds, strung together into a creek, forced into motion by gravity, following this canyon of its own making. Water clear as Buddha Mind flows beneath standing dead cedars, their roots drowned when the impetuous stream changed course. The transparent rush chatters past a small gravel bar, a collection of basalt cobbles broken and polished by endless tumbling water.
Within all of this reckless physicality, I park my butt on a piece of mountain worn round by the creek, dampness sending cool leftover night creeping into my aging bones. Behind my head, a cluster of half-grown nettles smells like green tea mixed with bobcat urine. At my feet, moss struggles to claim space on the stones. I struggle to claim space in this place, space in my mind, space for mindfulness.
Uncertainty enters every pore. Shall I drop my pen and breathe in the effortless endless flow of water? Or should my brain remain engaged with fingers, eyes, ears, skin? I’m wondering, because…
Who am I to act as conscious interface with this utterly unconscious place, pungent sun dancing through a blue gap, casting light and shadow on ancient conifers?
Who am I to force human meaning onto acrid nettles, spittlebug spit on fireweed, flat green palms of cow parsnip and thimbleberry, baby hemlocks springing from a log long dead but still feeding baby hemlocks?
Who am I to love the look and feel of Coastal Giant Salamanders, stalking quiet pools for crayfish and cutthroat trout, wide brown heads with feathery blood-filled gills seeking water-borne oxygen?
Who am I to ask anyone to love?
Who am I to serve witness?
Yet I must serve. Because my eyes draw in old mountains and trees, dying with grace and tranquility, worn down by relentless water and the spreading years.
Because now you are dying with grace and tranquility, worn down by spreading cells gone feral, cells no longer following the cooperative dance laid down by evolution.
When you told us you were leaving, I promised I would not be down. I am sad, because gratitude and grieving are conjoined, the light and shadow of our lives. But I am not paralyzed. You have taught me that our time is uncertain, consciousness is uncertain.
So I will toss this bright pebble of your life into a clear pool, watch the ripples spread outward, see them meet the sweeping current.