More then one hundred people drove out to congregate on 106 acres of nature preserve in Western Wisconsin to say goodbye to a friend yesterday.
All the apple blossoms were blooming. The scent of their flowers filled the air as we the assembled and chanted the Dharma. The sound of fiddles wove strands of music through the breeze as the wind picked up and flung the sheet music off the stand.
I looked around around and saw a hundred faces, glowing with a fragility that we all share and a courage that we all muster each day.
The farm children played in the grass and ran from parent to swingset, while the timber-framed park shelter was filled with people of all ages pondering the mystery of a man passing through that ultimate portal.
The mystery that we will never talk to him again, never share in his presence, and at the same time that feeling, in the back of our minds, that we too will pass, that others will one day retain that mystery and remember us and wonder — how is it that we will never break bread together again?
But sheltered by ancient pines that swayed in the spring breeze we all attempted to address that feeling with words and music, grouping together in an effort to stave off the coldness of death as if by sheer mass we could deny the icy clutch of the reaper.
And yet, meanwhile, spring continued its parade of life erupting from the shells of the dead and dying, the corpses of old lives being dismantled in favor of the new.
The most vibrant of green hues pushing upward from a darkened burned landscape as a recently set prairie fire renewed the ancient pact between deep roots and fertility of the grasslands. I thought of our friend who had passed away, finally becoming one with his most all-consuming of passions, the magical mechanisms of the soil.
He was a potter, farmer, builder, and dancer, all of which are work deeply intertwined with our universal underpinnings: the dirt beneath our feet.
In that moment, far from the others gathered but close in spirit, the fragility of our humanness was almost overwhelming to me. I wanted to close myself off from this intensity, but I did not.
One thing we must remember as we rush around — we do have the time. We have the time, it is only ours.
Another thing to remember — we must be true to ourselves in this time that we have. This is intensely important. We must not live a life of pretense, we must dive in there and truly find out what we are made out of.
If anything the circle of life picks up speed as it turns, and so time flies by until we put on the brakes and insist on a moment spent on what is important.
It’s too beautiful to fly by. Park the car and go run into the woods. Forget that pesky to-do list.
It will be there when you reemerge from the wild — fresh and recharged from the only nectar that can sustain our souls, the breath of the rusty root and the death cap spore. The heady aroma of pine needles littered like uncombed hair around the base of an ancient white pine. The glimpse of a faun in the woody duff, and the red squirrel hoarding his cache.
All so busy, all so fragile.
There is plenty in the moment to attend to. Smelling the flowers is not a wasted act of sloth and indulgence, it should be on the top of the to-do list, always. Breathe in that sweet smell of fragility and courage.