(AJ Bunyard)


The writers in JustThis look at Spring this issue. Spring is birth, they say; find hope in its new life, its beginning. But spring has in it both blossom and thorn, and beginning implies ending, the great cycle of life. Though we may rejoice in spring, we turn to that which underlies it. Spring is “the entire world acting through itself” in each moment. We can understand it as constantly manifesting. We can understand it as a place, a not-place, from which life comes, a tender center “where we are guided to each other.” We practice, we let it manifest.

Spring Triptych
(Bruce Smith)


Such a hard thing
(frightening, sad)
is turning off
the hot water
in the shower
    in the morning
        in Winter.


Spring is an unexpected snow storm,
a misty cold morning rush hour
halted by a procession of geese.


Against the window I survey
a shelf of cups and trays filled
with a moist, speckled brown
and see (imagine, hope?)
minute flecks of green
thrusting upward
through dense dirt;
yearning for sun
like sad spirits raised
from dead depression;
pushing on ‘gainst hope and reason
toward a future brighter.

Tell me, what creates the sprout—
who stoops so low as
to inspire, point out
what to do and where to go?
what voice calls, “Now! Rise!”

A child, a witness to Spring,
I’m humbled to the roots:
once again struck dumb with awe
by this miracle predictable and common;
moved to ecstatic, frightful worship
of the seed.

Visit Bruce's blog Write Learning

(Kim Mosley)

What ee called in just spring I call “meltdown.” His was a celebration for the balloonman, who “whistled far and wee,” while mine is lamenting the possible end of winter. The frog will wake up and notice that his limbs are a little stiff like the balloon man who is first lame and then goat-footed. The fish will become hungry and notice that there are not yet insects or vegetation to feed upon. The ice will disappear in the pond, never to be seen again. My heroic neighbor, an airplane gunner in WWII, will rise up from his easy chair to mow the leaves. Spring is not all that it is made up to be, but in a pinch, I'll take it.

Bunny Run #2
(Amy Lindsay-Joynt)

This is what comes to mind when I think about spring/fertility reproduction growth renewal and of course love. 

The Roots and Shoots of Requiem
(Keigetsu Heather Martin)

Good and evil have no self nature.
Holy and unholy are empty names.
In front of the door is the land of stillness and quiet;
Spring comes, grass grows by itself.
~ Master Seung Sahn
It was winter when we moved in, and the grass was all dead. Just as the masters assured me, however, spring came, and the grass grew by itself.

There were a thousand kinds of birds, strange little wildflowers, horned lizards and roadrunners. My favorites were the black swallowtail butterflies whose bizarre, maroon-and-orange horned caterpillars feasted on the tiny pipevines growing here and there in the lawn. The previous owner had been inattentive though, and the heartiest-looking grass soon turned out to be sandburs. They were thriving right where we walked of course, robust with the advantages of spilled garden soil and rainwater pooling from the sidewalk. I pulled off the seeds from time to time in passing from the house to the car, silently cursing the last owner for his laziness, with the expectation they would soon die without having managed to re-seed. When they persisted, I started pulling them up from the roots by hand. I paid for it with pricked fingers, and for each I pulled, five grew back around the edges of the old plant. It wasn't long before I started finding them spreading to the open, sunny part of the yard. My little fellow fell one day and stood up screaming, with several burs in his soft baby hands. Pulling them out was agony, and they left angry red spots for days.

That's when I got the shovel.

Their blades looked so much like the surrounding grass that I could only spot them by their evil seeds. I would follow a cluster back to the center of the plant, feel around the edges to find its full shape, and dig. Easy enough -- they were shallowly rooted. The path I walked every day was finally clear, and they didn't re-sprout...until the following spring.

I could see the burs growing in the neighbors' yards hanging through the fences and spreading their malignant germs right into mine. I watched the cats saunter home, casually plucking burs from their fur and dropping them in their favorite bathing spots. There's no controlling that, even if you don't own cats. Mowing more often just made them send out creepers low to the ground, seeding as much as ever. I kept digging, silently cursing both the neighbors and the cats for thoughtlessly undoing my hard work. It was truly disheartening to turn my attention to a disused and shady part of the yard one day, to find that burs actually do best in parched, ignored places, where they grow deep roots and tangle themselves into a dense carpet of corruption; I was just looking in the sunny, well-traveled areas first. Most of the people who saw what I was doing shook their heads and chuckled a little, saying something like, "Good luck with that," but not always meaning it. Quite a few told me there was no way but poison. "Or fire," they might add with a grin. A few though, nodded knowingly and offered some hint of encouragement: a certain digging tool, perseverance....that would let me keep the pipevines and caterpillars while ripping out those neglected spots. So, I kept at it.

Every time the boy got stuck, it deepened my hatred of the burs. I was doing it for him, but I spent hours digging in grim determination until he had to whine for me to stop and play with him. In a hurry now, in any spare minute I grabbed at them in fury, sometimes accidentally tearing at the grass I wanted to keep, and got jabbed so many times that I developed an allergy to their barbs. My fingers would swell so much that they were painful and difficult to use. I tried gloves, but the burs went right through them, and they dampened my ability to feel for the edges. The third year, I found new burs sprouting in the exact places where I had dug them up before. By paying close attention, I discovered dried seeds were clinging to the base of the plants, and by digging in a frenzy, I was actually planting them for the following season.

Those were my burs. Not the the previous owner's, not the neighbors, not the cats wandering through. Mine. No denying it.I may have cursed out loud that time.

So I slowed down. It took a good while, but I learned to rest, to balance my time, to feel for the edges gently to spare my fingers. I learned to discern sprouting burs among the grass and pipevines even before they bore fruit. I sifted carefully, carefully through the dirt to find waiting seeds. As I worked, I stopped noticing the origin of the seeds, ceased panicking every time the boy found a bur with the sole of his foot, and didn't think much about whether there was hope for eradication. I began to notice the radiant green of the new shoots. I wondered at their fecundity and hardiness and tenacity under almost every condition. I have a clear memory of sitting in awe of one plant in particular, with admiration of the elegant curve of its leaves, the delicacy of its spines, subtly tinged a beautiful purple at the base -- so sharp, and so perfectly suited for their purpose. And then, with great appreciation and reverence, I dug it up by the roots.

Four Seasons
(Kim Mosley)

Being born is kind of simple. I've read about schoolgirls going out to the woods during recess and delivering their baby before the bell rings.

I was surprised to hear Buddhists believe that birth is one of the four causes of suffering, along with sickness, old age and death. Why?

The world where the fetus grows is very different from its next environment. Are we then done with birth? Not at all—our life and our birthing has just begun.  We contend (over and over again) with not getting what we want, and getting what we don't want. This goes on and on until we grow old and die.
In the meantime, we experience sickness and old age. As we recover from one mode of suffering we start a new one. So why is it so special to be human?

As I sat tonight I went from spring to summer to autumn to winter in each breath. I'd watch my breath arrive and it was spring. Soon what was so pleasurable became bothersome, so I would breathe out feeling pleasure. Yet the grasping for another breath soon followed that relief, and the cycle continued … on and on.

We welcome each new breath as it is born and grieve it when it leaves us a moment later. The cycle continues. And this cycle replicates itself in every mode of life.

Relationships start and stop. What was once glorious is replaced by excruciating pain. My grandfather, after losing his last dog, said he couldn't endure the pain of losing another one. He had lost his wife (the love of his life) when he was in his twenties. “No more loss for me,” he said.

So why is it so special to be human? Because we can watch as we bounce back with each exhale and enjoy the next fresh breath that bathes our lungs, our blood, and our psyche. It is our ability to watch that separates us from other life forms.

A Gift Called Goodbye
(Erin Gaubatz)

This coming fall, I will be going into my senior year of high school and naturally, applying for colleges and scholarships. This is one of my essays that I’m planning to use this fall and I thought it would be a nice way to get back into writing on the blog.

In the four years leading up to our last goodbye, my mother was given a medley of gifts by the medical profession. The first gift was just the beginning. With a big tag labeled breast cancer, it showed up in the middle of our lives wrapped in a big pink ribbon, no card or instructions, and alas no gift receipt. Its arrival was marked with tears and puffy eyes. I used to hate the idea that there would ever be a reason that this disease was addressed to my mom, but it was she, that showed me how to take each gift with grace. Even the ones that make you cry. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year, when final gift arrived at our doorstep. Like before there was no card or instructions, and no gift receipt, except this time the once ambitious pink ribbon had faded, and the tag was not labeled with a diagnosis to start a fight, just a time: three to six months.

Shown (l to r): Mattie, Ronnie, Allie, Erin
Behind the camera: Doug

As my mother described, they were the days we had together and the days we did not. And it scared me so much. I had been given a time limit with the person I loved and through everything loved me. To think that three to six months would hold the last memories with my mom was not at first an idea I wanted to accept. Up until then, we had all taken on breast cancer as a fight. We wanted to win; however, it was my mom that showed us the beauty in accepting this time as a gift. And through her strength, I understood that acceptence did not mean surrendering. Accepting this gift of time was allowing myself to have a beautiful, long goodbye with my mom. I knew that she might not be there as I graduate high school, or walk down the aisle, but I would go through my life knowing that I was given the time that so many people never even get the chance to have. A gift of goodbye.

As one would presume, our goodbye brought along many tears, but it also brought memories, and joy, and most importanly, grace. I had listened to so many people tell me how strong my mom and my family was, and yet I don’t think it was strength that was holding us together. I believe that through the gift we had been given, we had all gained a feeling of grace. A grace that would accept even the heartaches as memory of a beautiful goodbye.

The first morning I went back to school after my mother’s death the air was still. As I stood in the grey light that hinted through the French doors on the back of our house, I could feel it aching to be revived by the sunlight. I was ready to go back to school, but I couldn’t help but linger for a few more minutes. My feet paced against the hardwood floor like ships waiting for their anchor to snag the bottom. Usually I raced out of the house in the morning, but that morning I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was forgetting something. By then the clock was pushing me along, so I went to tell my dad I was leaving. He stood in the kitchen, trimming another set of sunflowers from the pervious days’ services to put in a vase. As I saw the flowers lining the counter, I felt that knot tighten in my throat. This morning goodbye would have to take the place of two.

“Goodbye. I love you.” He said as he kissed my forehead and held me, backpack and all, a little tighter than most mornings.

Walking through the halls to my first class, I couldn’t help but wonder if the people I passed had said goodbye to their mothers that morning or if they hugged their fathers before walking out the door. I hope they did; even the smallest goodbyes are gifts.

Spring and Dogen's Being-Time
(Mark Frank)

[Being-time] is the actualization of being. Heavenly beings like gods and celestials are being-time. All the things in the water and on land are being-time. The world of life and death and everything in them is being-time; it continually exists, actualizing itself in your present experience. Everything exists in the present within yourself. 
Continuous existence is not like the rain blown by the wind east and west. Continuous existence is the entire world acting through itself. Consider this illustration: When it is spring in one area, it is spring everywhere in the surrounding area. Spring covers the entire area. Spring is only spring; it does not presuppose winter or summer. It is the actualization of the wind and sunshine of spring. Continuous existence is like this. But continuous existence is not spring; rather, the continuous existence of spring is spring (Nishiyama, 1975, p. 70).
Cherry blossom viewing in a Yokohama, Japan park

We are presently experiencing a cold snap here in my hometown, after being teased with a spate of warmer weather – an occurrence that certainly has many yearning for the arrival of spring. But that which we call ‘spring’ neither arrives nor departs. To think of the coming and going of spring, and time, is to think of time in the ordinary way—as something that passes. But if spring is something that passes, it must go somewhere. If time is something that passes, and we are time, then we must go somewhere—and yet we remain.

“Continuous existence is the entire world acting through itself.” What we call ‘spring’ is the entire world acting through itself. The entire world is neither arriving nor departing. The entire world is the sun and earth actualizing being-time, engaging in a spinning dance of nearness and farness. The entire world is the earth actualizing its being-time, now showing this face to the sun and now another. The entire world is life in all of its forms actualizing being-time in the present moment as all of life has actualized being-time in the present moment for eons and eons. The actualization of being-time includes warmth and rain and rising sap, buds and blossoms and birds building nests. The actualization of being-time includes the emotion and wonder of human beings gathering to enjoy that which we call ‘spring.’ But continuous existence cannot be contained or constrained by the word and concept of ‘spring’. Only “the continuous existence of spring is spring.”

Elsewhere in Uji, Dogen invokes a variation on the now well-known koan related to a monk asking his teacher, Joshu, the reason for Bodhidharma having come from the west. Bodhidharma, by the way, was the monk of Indian birth who is considered the first patriarch of Chinese Zen, or Ch’an. In the more well-known version, Joshu responds: “Cypress tree in the garden.” In Dogen’s telling of the story, however, we have a conversation between two Zen Masters, Yakusan and Daijaku, the latter with an apparently deeper realization than the former.
[Yakusan] asks, “I have more or less clarified the import of the three vehicles and the twelve divisions of the teaching. But just what is the ancestral master’s intention in coming from the west?” 
Thus questioned, Zen Master Daijaku says, “Sometimes I make him [Daijaku refers to himself] lift an eyebrow or wink an eye, and sometimes I do not make him lift an eyebrow or wink an eye; sometimes to make him lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is right, and sometimes to make him lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is not right.” 
Hearing this, Yakusan realizes a great realization and says to Daijaku, “In Sekito’s order I have been like a mosquito that climbed onto an iron ox.” (Nishijima, 2009, pp. 147-148).
Given the context, I think we can safely conclude that Dogen considers Daijaku’s response to have conveyed his understanding of being-time – as does, for that matter, “cypress tree in the garden.” Just as the being-time of the cypress tree reflects the deepest truth of the entirety of the universe, and just as the being-time of the sun and earth and all that lives in or on it or rains down upon it encompasses that which we call ‘spring,’ so the being-time of Bodhidharma and all those who intently practiced the Dharma with him in China encompassed that which we might call a Zen ‘spring’ on the Asian continent. But if that is what Daijaku intended to convey, why didn’t he just say it? What’s with all of this raising of eyebrows and winking – or not? My understanding is that Daijaku is conveying his understanding of Bodhidharma’s being-time by relating the truth of his own being-time, and by doing so, relating the truth of being-time in general. If he’d replied by saying “cypress tree in the garden” (someone else’s answer), Yakusan would not have understood Daijaku’s response as the deepest expression of his own understanding which, itself, is always changing, always evolving, never absolute – being-time. And so it is that Daijaku sometimes “make[s] him lift an eyebrow or wink an eye.” Daijaku is conveying the reality that being-time is the moment-to-moment “actualization of being.” He is conveying the reality that “continuous existence is the entire world acting through itself.”

But that is not quite all there is to Daijaku’s understanding of being-time. By his own admission, that answer is sometimes correct and sometimes incorrect. Being-time encompasses enlightenment as well as delusion. Perhaps Bodhidharma himself, if we could ask him why it was that he came from the west, would respond very much as did Daijaku: “Sometimes I head east, and sometimes I head west;  sometimes to head east is right, and sometimes to head east is not right.” Such is being-time.

Sometimes spring arrives ‘right on time’ and sometimes spring is ‘late.’ Sometimes spring comes ‘early’ and with it the awakening of myriad beings which then freeze or whither or starve. This, too, is being-time. To say that spring has made a mistake or that all of those myriad beings have been mistaken is to not understand being-time. Arriving early is being-time. Arriving late is being-time. Heading east with the intention of heading east is being-time. Heading east with no intention whatsoever is being-time as well.

Cherry Blossoms and Temple Cat

Read the entire post on Mark's blog,

Cherry blossoms in Mitsuzawa-park at Yokohama, Japan by Kounosu via:

Temple cat amongst cherry blossoms by Tanakawho via:

(Betty Gross)

A Real Home We Have in the Body
(Emma Skogstad)

In the center the most tender is.
Silent weeping, softness,
children sleeping, baby bird—
everything that is unwinged and woundable
is curled up deep under
the iron bars of ribcage.
This gentle place young is,
and timeless and without face it is.

We, believing ourselves homeless, forget.
We rush about and stiffen
to protect and hide
from others, from ourselves,
we in our turtle shells,
hunched back or chest puffed out:
it’s all the same.
It’s all protection of
this most vulnerable,
this most tender.

But the center is where
stars shine, where
we are guided
to each other, where
if we are most brave,
if we have been most harmed,
we know indestructible we are.

To meet each other tentatively
most in this tender place:
we save each other;
we save the world.

A Story of an Ordinary Day
(Bill Metz)

Everyday life ... is ... the only teacher ....

Jack’s old Volvo turns the corner. Motor dies. Oil spills.
     Thin 80ish man. Such sweetness.

He’s sure it just needs one little thing. A wire reattached. A little coolant. He fiddles. I talk. I wonder. Do I need to take this problem from him? I ask if his wife knows where he is. I ask is anyone—a brother—he can call?.
     “No one I would want to disturb.”

He thinks the car, her car? only needs a jump start. I smile with him. A neighbor is arranging the jumper. He tells me his wife died 3 months ago. He tells me they had a revival of romantic love. He tells me about the minutes and seconds before she died. She asked for a kiss. He gave. She received. That gift. And in seconds he watched her blood pressure drop to zero.
     I thanked him.

I already had two grieving people to try to catch that day, that morning, almost that hour.
     I didn’t have to take on his car problem. A neighbor did.

My lesson was—I don’t have to take on every problem that the day presents. His neighbor assisted with the car problem—competently, gently, lovingly.
They had to call a roll-cart truck to take her away, the old Volvo. The motor was dead.

Jack needed one person to hear his story. Another to fix his car.

(Kim Mosley)

From Ruby's BBQ, men's rest room, Austin, TX

One of my eyes has been crying lately. Maybe it has been crying a long time and I just didn't notice. Sometimes I think this is a problem. Should I get it fixed? And then I wonder which eye should be repaired: the cryer or the tight-fisted “I'm not going to feel anything eye.” It is my right eye that cries. Normally, it is the left that is known to cry. Like most things, I have it mixed up.

It feels good to cry. I never was much good at it. My father told me to stop crying when my mother died. That wouldn't have been so bad except it was so hard to cry that I was glad I was crying—glad that I was feeling something.

But then, when he was dying, he got mad at me because I wasn't crying. He told me that this was a very somber moment and that I should be sad. But he was so beautiful in his acceptance of death that I laughed.

It is convenient to half cry because I can wipe my tears with one hand. Tears are kind of salty and cool. Maybe that's why they feel so good.

I suspect it is my body that cries. My mind looks at things very differently. It views the costs and benefits of the situation. A tree dies and I say to myself, “now the sunlight can hit the pond.” I don't feel much for the tree, until I feel this cool drip seeping down my cheek. Then I ponder, “Oh no, the grand tree is gone!”

P.S. As I read this out loud to my writing group, tears started coming from the left too. Someone handed me a box of tissues. That's a first for me.

P.P.S. Think I'll call the eye doctor, in hopes that it is my heart and not something less serious.

P.P.P.S. I have an eye appointment at 2pm. Stay tuned.

P.P.P.P.S. The eye doc said I have matted eye lashes and that I should wash them three times a day with Johnson Baby Shampoo, diluted 1:1, for a week. He was concerned that I didn't know what 1:1 meant. I told him that photographers know that. Of course, this disease has a cool name: blepharitis. He said I could read about it on the web.

Willing the Moon
(Sarah Webb)

Hard to hear
this slippery sound,
change slipping down

in darkness the bean
uncurls his fat stalk

a cat steps over the mounded row

I sit at my window
writing this,
willing the seeds to grow
the moon  to rise past the trees

demanding a poem
stopping myself

Let it come
the slow push of bean
against mud

Now Come to This
(Betty Gross)

Weeds, Milam County , TX

Now come to this empty field,
this burned and blackened expanse.
We burn to clear; we slash and burn,
ready for planting.

Seeds of thought are hidden, protected.
Spring is full; summer is near.
And what of this promise,
the empty made full and on and on?

This cycle is dependent on impermanence.
Where is the center,
ever-shifting but no less connected?

We wonder as we wander
and take the backward step
of no expectation.

Cry and mourn,
light and dark,
each with its gravity.

Signifying nothing,
a moment is flow.
We can’t force the waterfall to flow.

Wait for the next click of the clock.
Night follows day.
Spring is not jealous of Winter
or resentful of Summer.

A kernel of longing,
a piece of a picture.
A jigsaw there,
but not for owning.

Kuanski Falls, Cambodia

Cherry Blossom Tattoo
(Joel Pang)

Cherry blossoms and koi fish design and tattoo by Joey Pang via Wikopedia Commons