subtle lessons

Until last winter, we hadn’t been up in the woods since the Ice Storm of 1998 which had brought down many trees that blocked the trails.  Just behind these trees is a ravine that channels a stream south to the farm-house.  Beavers dammed the stream one year and Frank cleared the pond that winter so we could skate on it.  In the Summer, we popped the canoe into the pond and floated around wondering if there were any fish in its depths.  On the other side of the ravine is a clearing surrounded by birches.  We would sit there watching the shivering leaves and the splatters of sunlight that bounced to the ground.  We dreamed of a cabin in that clearing.  It would be filled with books and a cook stove fueled by wood.  When the dreams got silly, we built rope bridges across the ravine and trained horses to slide down one side and canter up the other like the ones in the movie Man from Snow River.  This refuge would become the beating heart of our lives, dedicated to helping all creatures – large to small, no-legged to multi-limbed.

Over the years, dogs and cats roamed the woods.  Horses thundered along the trails.  I bought Frank a horse actually named Snowy River.  It seemed a little psychotic when I had the vet check done in its home barn but I had faith in Frank’s ability to heal all creatures.  After all, look at what he’s accomplished with me.  When one ride ended up with him curled in a ball under Snowy River’s pounding hooves, we decided that perhaps some creatures were best left unchallenged in their constructed selves.

More and more, I’m learning that the Bodhisattva vow – with all due respect to Hakuin – requires more than a burning aspiration.  A dollop of good sense is helpful, as is a dash of respect for the creature’s desire to be just who it is.  After all, there is nothing in the Bodhisattva’s vow that says only I am to be the agent of change in someone’s unfolding story.

Thank you for practising,


One thought on “subtle lessons

  1. Well, this is just wonderful, especially the insight about the vow to help.

    There’s an old story about a Chinese martial arts master who was ready to retire. So he gave transmission to his most senior student and everyone, including the master, went out to a fine dinner in celebration.

    The group was walking home after the dinner, down a narrow street, when they came upon a mule. The mule looked pissed. So the senior student shouted and then vaulted over the mule. All the other students were very impressed and said, “Oh, our old master made a good choice!”

    The old master, on the other hand, turned around and walked around the block, to meet the students at the end of the alley past the mule.

    Perhaps we can sometimes help best by leaving things alone. Sometimes it’s not our turn.

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