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 SHIVAYAH!
after the festive gala celebration comes the thorough clean-up. after the inmost insight comes steady determined application. after the fall from grace & light comes the humility to struggle from the shattered scattered rubble & resolutely rise up again: what is learned from the darkness is to be gathered & shared in the light. after the sincere sadhana comes the fading of maya's mirage in Shiva's pervasive light. He is kneading the soul as if it is bread being carefully prepared for baking. He is working His light deep into the cells that i may also be a light unto the world. wherever i am, Shiva declares it a temple & i bow humbly. i pray for the trees & the birds & for the young of all who are born to bless this sad besieged world with the nectar of their sweet purity. this is the time when abundant blessings are needed everywhere, for what is learned from the darkness is to be gathered & shared in the light.
i saw the timeworn tumbled stones of a great temple where once the mother goddess prevailed in peaceful times long gone. the mountain had another name then. we all had truer names & spoke in warm clear vowels that blessed the trees leaning toward us in the sweet communion of celebration. now our names are clipped short & our words clash & clatter sharp against the stone, like bullets ricochetting upon the broken temple walls. the stones weep. i hear them late at night when the owls call into the darkness that has crept across the land & over our minds. this night we lean toward the promise of dawn, toward the morning song of the wood thrush. the hands of the heart reach out in tender supplication. like the old scattered temple stones, we wait for another era, a coming time, a milder season, & we give new names of soft syllables to the old things. we lift our hopeful eyes to the mountain top & the sky & sing. we sing. can You hear us, Shiva? we will not stop our singing, we will not close up our throats again, but loud & strong we will ever sing of beauty & wholeness that never ceases pushing toward the light. hear us, Shiva! we call You now, laying out the breadcrumbs of our invocation, lighting the path with our love & urgent need as we voice our song. the mountain calls out through us to You, Shiva, offering itself as Your temple in these times that beg our response. we will build a new temple from these tumbled mother-stones & sing in calm flowing syllables nestled in silence.