Thursday, July 06, 2006
Mediation under a Swamp Cooler
The desert is a place that accepts no 'ifs' 'ands' or 'buts' -- it accepts only brutal honesty. Today, without the overhead whirl of the swamp cooler, this room would be unbearable, instead, it is hot and a bit humid. But even the moist air is quickly reduced to arid air, just too much dryness for any moisture to last, except perhaps a cloud burst, when the outside thermometer is 110 -- in the shade. Water, the cacti go leafless in order to conserve it, our sunflowers, I'm sure, are embarrassed by their name, for today their namesake is doing everything possible to scorch the last drop of moisture from their very being. But our valiant attempts to green a bit of this parched landscape are not in vain, for with water, we watch alien flora live for one more day. A lapse of diligence on our part for a day or two spells death to these sunflowers and tomatoes that find themselves in a foreign land. And we too are even more fragile, for to wander about on a day like this, without ample water and provisions and careful preparations, would be simply foolhardy, and fatal. And here we are, this water-bag of humanity covered by the thinnest cover -- skin -- about as thick as a sheet of paper, that which can be punctured by a mere cactus thorn, yet it suffices, that is, with guidance from that which is within the skull. Everyone visiting the desert is fascinated by the discovery of their first sun-bleached cow skull. In fact, any skull. But the cow skull seems to hold special meaning, especially if one has ever viewed Georgia O'Keeffe's painting of one. I am particularly fond of the one titled, "Cow's Skull with Calico Roses." It's a dry heat -- that's our favorite one-liner here at the monastery during these fiery months. Last evening Abbot Eastley began rhapsodizing about the early years, then he told a story that I had never heard before, it was about Bro. George, he has passed on many years ago, but what I did not know is that he spent a year in Manzanar, the Japanese relocation camp during WWII. I have driven past the spot, stopped and visited many times, this haunting remnant that is at the base of the Sierra Nevada. The abbot spoke kindly of Bro. George, what surprised me is that Bro. George joined the army, left the camp and was in combat in Italy. Perhaps I can urge the abbot to tell us more, but for now I can say that I only knew Bro. George as a very quiet and truly a gentle and kind man, he more than anyone else I cannot picture in uniform and in mortal combat. But such is life. Surviving. To be gentle.