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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fishing in a sea of sand

Years ago I viewed a Zen rock garden, with not a petunia in sight, just sand raked into swirling patterns of the sea, and a few large rocks here and there, I guessed then they represented islands, the sand the watery sea, with the raked swirls that which created the metaphor in my head of watery sea, and not simply bone-dry sand miles from any body of water. I returned a few times to that garden, once watching a solemn monk carefully dragging a rake as he first made a course around one large rock, and then the others, and then seemed to have a course already memorized, for he dragged that rake as I recalled I used to push a lawnmower in my youth. In the backyard I would not cut the lawn as my older brother did, in careful, overlapping rows, but I would push that old lawnmower in circles and swirls and zigzags, anything but in straight lines. It was fun, drawing with a lawnmower, I would stop to admire the meandering course cut through the tall grass, but in the end I would always have to do a quick back-and-forth to clip all the tall grass, all before my father returned home from work. The Buddhist dragging the rake didn't appear to be having as much fun as I did pushing a heavy lawnmower. I wondered why. At the time I supposed it had become ritual to him, and sand patterns did create looks of awe on the faces of visitors when they first came through the wooden gate. So in the spirit of pushing a lawnmower in a carefree manner, and in the spirit of the look of a Zen rock garden, I fashioned myself a wooden rake and outside the monastery, perhaps a quarter mile away, I discovered a small dune of sand that I have often gazed at, for the wind-created patterns are always a delight for me. So it was with a bit of trepidation (and boldness?) that I first began to drag the wooden rake over the dune in a pattern that I recall from that Zen garden. My thoughts when raking the dune:

A small sand dune suddenly grows large when one takes a rake to it.
What animal was missing from Noah's ark? The fish!
What is the only meal that Jesus prepares? Fish!
Sandals are useless on a sand dune, barefoot better. In April yes, in July no.
Jesus said to them, "Come and eat breakfast."
Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them,
and likewise the fish.

Sitting on a boulder and taking in the raked sand, I see that I seem to have a penchant for spiraling swirls. And God seems to have a penchant for rather beautiful waves of sculpted sand. I say that for the wind was kicking up and before my eyes I could see the fine sand slowly erasing my efforts, and after an hour or so of silent meditation, I had to admit, indeed, I have much to learn, for my sea motif of dervish lines now seemed so out of place, yet before I could return to rake the sand back in place, the wind picked up, sending me on my way.

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