Off I go, for another retreat – this time though, I’m serving not sitting. There’s a few hours of meditation each day in group sits, where everyone sits together in the meditation hall, so I’ll get in at least 3 hours a day, maybe more, but most of my time will be spent making meals and cleaning up. KP duty.
I just finished reading the short novel, True Grit, and I think it’s most definitely an under-appreciated American classic. Yes, a classic: a novel that is both artistically compelling as well as fascinating for its exploration of post-Civil War America and the mythology of the frontier. Many are familiar with True Grit via the films, starring John Wayne (1969) and Jeff Bridges (2010), but the novel does something that the films have not yet quite been able to capture, focused as they are on the rough-and-tumble male stars. Portis’ novel explores the life and world of Mattie, the tough, precocious young girl who is intent on avenging her father’s death — and is intent on taking charge of the task, personally, to make certain it gets done.
I’ve met a good deal of transients in the last ten years, folks without permanent addresses, primarily working seasonal jobs that allow them a free-bird flexibility. Untethered from the office desk and the corporate Nine-to-Five schedule, one has the ability to hit the road as the spirit leads — take a trip for a month or two (or more) and explore the world. I’ve met many of my fellow free spirits in or near America’s spectacular national parks, most notably in Alaska. So I thought it might be of particular interest to some of my transient nature-loving friends that Trump & Cronie$ are in the process of $elling off nearly a million acres of public land, so as to accelerate fracking.
Am currently watching Godless, part of a new fixation with the Westerns genre. “No other nation,” the historian David Hamilton Murdoch writes in The American West: The Invention of a Myth, “has taken a time and place from its past and produced a construct of the imagination equal to America’s creation of the West.” From a good Atlantic article, What Godless Says about America.
In honor of Trump’s recent recommitment to pulling out of the Paris Agreement (like most issues, he seems to go back and forth on it), I’m re-posting one of my favorite cartoons. To a pro-capitalist, it makes sense: building a sustainable world would massively slow the economy. But for a capitalist profit and making money are the highest value, more so than life and health and solidarity. The choice is real: money or a better world. A better world is about life and wellness and flourishing. Money, on the other hand, is about death, it’s about converting the so-called “resources” (i.e. the living world) into money, as quickly as possible.
Of course hiking isn’t all mountain top experiences or epic Facebook photo-ops. If you hike regularly enough, much of it can start to feel pretty ordinary, actually, like my hike last weekend, where I woke up in an out-of-sorts mood. It was one of those moods where the trajectory of one’s life just feels off track, yet upon further examination there’s really no particular reason to feel that way. In the past, this melancholic frame of mind might really throw me off, leading to a variety of interrogations: perhaps I’ve not got my shit together in life, or maybe I haven’t been meditating enough, or perhaps I’m in hte wrong place, doing the wrong thing, and on and on, trying to locate what’s wrong or what’s off. I don’t really take my feelings very seriously anymore. Does that sound drastic? I don’t know, maybe it is, but the mind and the heart are a bit crazy and seem to me to be so very random so much of the time. Frankly, it’s hard for me …
Also on this weekend’s hike, as I stood at the top, socked in, surrounded by the white foggy clouds, visibility severely limited, I can’t help but notice that there’s also a different sort of quiet than I usually experience. Typically when I stand at the top of Bonanza or any other epic peak, there is a sort of silence of the vastness, and in the vastness, something that adds to the mountain top experience of standing in solitude above the world, somewhat god-like. There often isn’t much to hear, just maybe the wind brushing along rock, but it makes for an epic sort of hush. On this foggy day, though, I can’t see the world below, there is no silence of vastness. It’s a silence of blankness. I’m surrounded by white, and it feels like a suspended moment from childhood, like a blanket fort, like I’m surrounded by white sheets, and it’s late, and everyone else is sleeping. It’s some sort of tantalizing no place, it’s a place to whisper secrets, perhaps secrets that we never knew …