It’s been a tough year to follow the obits, a tough year period. No sooner do I get my head around one human-shaped hole in the universe, than “another man done gone”—or woman.
Too much loss, too much worry, too much anger and fear: blessings hard to give thanks for. These things were on my mind last month as I was sitting in the library at Twitchell Lake Inn, reading the work of some older men who were also contemplating mortality and gratitude.
Looking ahead to Thanksgiving this week, I give thanks for that most basic of all blessings—for life.
Happy to Be Here Now
Beside this rustic lodge a glacial erratic rests, just short
of sliding down to the lake. On it, a plaque–
Earl Covey built this place. Lodge and boulder remain,
but Earl Covey? Gone since nineteen fifty-three.
“There’s only one dualism that counts: Being and Non-Being,”
Gary Snyder said, “It’s all ecology otherwise; it’s all
interactions.” Being on the being end of the continuum
at this moment, dry and warm, I say, “Thanks, Earl. Nice work.”
But not to keep. Gravity takes the long view – logs will lean,
the rooftree fall. The boulder will roll to the lake bottom,
which will in time silt in, sprout up into white birch. Meanwhile,
“Let’s go dancing while we’ve still got feet,” David Budbill said.
He said of dead, “It’s back to the undifferentiated Tao with you.”
Now he can speak with authority. I say, “Thanks, David. Nice work.”
North of sixty is a surplus of memento mori. Asked “What about
age, sickness and death?” Snyder said, “Enjoy them while you can.”
I climb up, beyond bonsai mountain ash at the timberline,
beyond fear, sentiment, to the mute anorthosite bulge of summit,
to one solid illusion of eternity in a kingdom of wind. There
I take off my hat to scratch at the scar where cancer once grew.