These cloudy days rather fit my mood: stormy, blown around by the wind, promising darkness. But they also can reveal to us something of what David Hinton wrote about:
"Chinese ancient sages assumed that this immediate experience of empty awareness was the beginning place, that dwelling here in the beginning, free of thought and identity, is where we are most fundamentally ourselves . . . you can begin at the beginning anytime, anywhere. A simple room, for instance, morning sunlight through windows lighting the floor; a sidewalk cafe, empty wine glass on the table; trees rustling in the slight breeze, sunlit passersby; a routine walk through a park, late autumn trees bare, rain clattering in fallen leaves . . . emptying our minds completely . . . we gaze out as if it were sight seeing for the first time, gaze with no expecting at all . . . wanting to see them then as they are in and of themselves, free of all of our tenuous human stories about them, our ideas and beliefs."
It was windy yesterday, and cooler. Rain perhaps tomorrow. The cold front making life more difficult up north affects us, but with fewer problems.
"A long and gracious fall this year.
The leaves are down. Gardens: emptied,
manured, tilled, smooth and waiting . . .
Fall planting—peonies and tiger lilies—done . . .
What else is there to do? . . . we are ready
for the snow. Ready now to come inside. Time now
words and music, poems and shakuhachi. Time now
to light some incense, sit and stare at candlelight."
"here comes the brimming,
the flooding and streaming
out of the clouds
and into the leaves . . .
The sky seems stretched
like an old black cloth . . .
And the moon steps lower,
her luminous masks, brushing
everything as she passes . . ."
Autumn in Missouri
"The autumn air, chill and clear,
moves in to stay."
Spare, and yet beautiful . . .
Photography authors often say an image should not just be about what is there (sometimes called "documentation"), but should reflect or call up a mood, idea or emotion. I'm feeling scattered and uninspired so this image may serve for what that feels like. I like the image; it's a reflection in a pond—from my trip to Yosemite earlier this year.
These images (yesterday's and today's) come from a moment that now seems like long ago; they are for me a memorial for the beauty known then and now only recalled in memory and in these (sad) images. And then they fit my typical autumnal mood: bittersweet.
Robinson Jeffers lived for many years near Point Lobos and wrote about it often. Here is another of his ruminations:
"One light is left us: the beauty of things . . .
The immense beauty of the world . . .
Look—and without imagination, desire nor dream—directly
At the mountains and sea. Are they not beautiful?
These plunging promontories and flame-shaped peaks
Stopping the sombre stupendous glory, the storm-fed ocean? Look at the
Lobos rocks off the shore,
With foam flying their flanks . . .
is the earth not
Nor the great skies over the earth?
The beauty of things means virtue and value in them.
It is in the beholder's eye, not the world? Certainly,
It is the human mind's translation of the transhuman
Intrinsic glory. It means that world is sound . . ."
Lone cypress in Pebble Beach
"The beauty of things was born before eyes and sufficient to itself; the
Will remain when there is no heart to break for it."
I'm not sure about this. I also find some truth in what Jeffers wrote before these lines:
"My friend from Asia . . .
creates an ocean more real than the ocean, the salt,
Appalling presence, the power of the waters.
He believes that nothing is real except as we make it."
This is a long-lasting philosophical puzzle, of course. I'm uncertain exactly where I come down here—perhaps between the two views or holding both to have some truth?
Belden Lane: "Coronado . . . marched with three hundred troops into the Zuni village of Hawikuh in the hot July of 1540. He had come with hopes of fulfilling a dream as old as the Middle Ages and as recent as current rumor—a dream that seven sumptuous cities of gold could be found in the hinterland of this unexplored and unexpended land. He was quickly disappointed, however, finding no precious metals there at all—only Zuni sandstone and a few pieces of turquoise. His eyes traveled over the variegated flaxen colors of the nearby cliffs, the yellow corn growing along the muddy river, and the village's sun-baked adobe in the golden afternoon light, and he saw nothing. The Zuni love of the golden earth as a richness in its own right was an appreciation lost entirely on the sensibilities of a hard-bitten treasure hunter like Coronado."
Monday's and today's posts are variations on one of my favorite adages from Thoreau: It's not about what you look at, but about what you see. Our ideas, our prejudices, our expectations can get in the way of truly seeing what is right there before us. As Lane also says, for the Zunis, "the earth was gold enough." I sometimes, when I'm most awake, feel the same way.