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
there were many times in my life when You came to me
& i did not recognize You, yet You reached deep down
into me & seized my attention, drawing me forth
through its sharp needle to pierce the moment & mark it
for remembrance forever in my heart's memory.
i trace the thread to its origin: it's You, always
You in varied form & stance all throughout this long life.
the more i search, the more robustly do you emerge
within my heart, dancing to the beat of its drumming.
please hold me in Your arms that i may honor Your call
for consummation without condition. I yield now.
i offer all freely, tenderly, ceaselessly.
i know now that You never did turn away from me
but gave the opportunity to heal deep-seated
karmic tendencies that needed focus over time.
for that i wandered through the lonely hinterland of
suffering & refinement of receptivity.
though always the memory of Your presence & grace
would warm me like the sweet gentle sunshine of springtime,
like a soft generous rain soaking into the earth,
like the sun patiently pulling the life from the seed
into the down-pouring soft radiant grace of You.
Shiva, we are fused in purpose & intent to bless.
gone are the days of raw youthful naive ignorance.
now i see compassionately through mature vision
how You persistently, continually touched me,
shaped me, held me, healed me & how, in the final view,
You auspiciously emerged from Your hidden home deep
within my heart's most intimate & sacred chamber.
You wear me today like a consecrated garment
as i am borne by You through this long incarnation
which i celebrate like a glad global holiday.
i am soaked through & through with Your divine love & grace
& i cannot stop these words that pour forth rejoicing,
rejoicing like a tree in the warm springtime sunshine!