a rowdy pack of dogs goads a herd of cows through the rugged woods, where the cows take asylum in the fallow corn field by our house. during the weeks they are here they graze the field clear & they open a pathway down to shelter valley by the creek. here the cows rest safely beneath the great hemlock tree whom i call mother because of her broad, thick & wide-stretched open arms that guard & secure the cool protected cave-like chamber beneath this sentinel tree.
it is a sanctuary for the cows & later, for me, my haven where i meditate, self-review & become absorbed in the ancient energies of the mountain, valley & free-flowing streams of water bordering toward the east & the west of this secluded nature preserve & branch-cloistered nurturing retreat.
i call the auspicious spacious chamber beneath mother hemlock the temple of the green sun. sunlight filters through the green hemlock needles, casting an undersea glow because the branches sweep the earth around the tree & the feeling is of a sanctified place. my chair leans against her trunk as sunlight streams in long shifting bands of swirling dusty light all around & arching high overhead. for years we commune daily, the mother hemlock & i, in all kinds of weather, both inside my head & touching on the outer.
then it happens: the plague of wooly adelgids arrives at the blue ridge mountains & the mother hemlock falls a victim to it. the invasive insects slowly vampirize the tree, drinking her juices. her needles fall, branches becoming bare in a few years, her power & glory sucked away, her dark bones starkly showing. i am watching a loved one slowly die during these years, for there's no cure or help for the mother hemlock. we are all powerless in the face of this fierce invading pestilence that ravages.
the temple of the green sun is gone. it's now a somber graveyard, a tomb marking the death of a local goddess, & i am but memorializing her & the peaceful shelter she furnished. now she is a skeleton, bare & dark against the empty sky. goodbye, mother hemlock, farewell & my gratitude goes with you. i also no longer flourish & thrive, though it's better for me than for you, yet you are always in my memory: teacher, friend & dear companion for long, wonderful country-time years down the curvy backroads of the blue ridge mountains of north carolina.
ah Shiva! growing as a tree, You show me blessings & teach me patience, acceptance & detachment. I thank You for giving this insight, for showing me You can change form yet ever reappear as the consummate teacher & companion. You are woven like a heartening red thread patterned throughout my whole life, revealing Yourself to be the heart & soul of every blessing & every challenge, connecting the varied myriad parts as one, having a single intent. You make of me a better person so that my personality may serve the world. You show me that i also, in essence, extend far beyond form, merging myself into You at deepest core & fundament, eluding words altogether.
You are the dogs, the cows, the hemlock tree, wooly adelgids too. just because i cannot comprehend the whole pattern does not mean a thing & i know that fact well! i have taken refuge in You, Shiva, so let the drama play out; it's beyond my concern now. all i need is You, my Beloved, & You know that very well: You have been lighting the way ceaselessly since time & space burst forth. OM NAMAH SHIVAYA
i recall an early teaching You gave me, Shiva, instructing
through my daily living in modest but memorable lessons.
one early sunny spring morning i set out to find wildflowers,
delighted to greet the small blue blossoms scattered like confetti
throughout the rolling country pasture by the newly greening woods.
the tiny blue faces with their smears of dusty yellow pollen
are pure & simple: innocent emissaries of the divine.
they grow vigorously, lush & colorful where the soil is thick.
there is a barren area too, rough with red clay & pebbles,
yet i see one little uplifted blue face in the dry rubble.
a single tiny blue flower, dwarfed, ragged & scrawny, is
reaching upward into the light in the midst of the parched dry dirt.
i bow in respect, swayed by the beauty of this frail survivor
simply doing its best to grow in an unfavorable place.
this touches me more deeply than the abundant clusters of bright
flowers in favored locations, robust in their vitality.
sometimes it is a heroic act just to be alive, seeking light.
You don't refuse anyone who longs for the light of truth, Shiva:
& so it is that i too continue resolutely onward.