Centennial Rib Cage Oak Tree

The spreading wings of the centennial rib cage oak tree,
Planted prior to the house existing in an embryonic dream cluster,
Shelters paisley winged doves who occasionally cool off
In the bubbling brook, green moss stone rippled birdbath.

A green inch worm hovers,
Hangs as in a lotus position in the expansive undercurrent,
Suspended, absorbs the animated conversation of the two gardeners
Discussing the merits of creativity and how it must be
Carefully sustained in order to produce the ripened blossom
And meaningful tasting fruit, like the green leaf vegetables
Maturing in the deep dug adjacent plot.

—Rupert Hopkins

Ordaining the Big Oak Tree

We ordained the big oak tree tonight. I felt a little funny about being part of that ceremony. That beautiful old oak tree is kind of like a wood Buddha from the 12th century. It has been around far longer that we have, and has experienced many persuasions over the century(s) that it has lived.

What about its choice? Is this like the Mormons baptizing everyone and their brother? Do we have that right to determine what someone should believe? Should we even baptize a child? Are we regulating its mind before it has the ability to say boo?

Photo by Scott Shaevel

Maybe I could sneak over to the tree some night and defrock it. I kind of liked the lack of preferences of that tree. How it reaches out in a myriad of directions giving love to all sentient beings, even those in a blade of grass mentioned in the sutra that we read at the ordination. Maybe, just maybe, that is what the tree is contemplating when it isn't struggling with challenging elements and people.

When I read this to my Zen Writing group, Bill pointed out that when the Zen center moved into our current temple that they saw that the tree was dying and both petitioned the city to move a sidewalk and changed the landscaping to give the tree more water. I started to feel that the tree might now have some major affinity with Zen. I hope so.

After our meeting, I spoke with Scott about the tree. He suggested that it might be a Buddhist for a while, but then, when its tenants change, it might adopt another persuasion. That sounds good to me.

This morning I found a paper on tree ordination in Thailand: http://tinyurl.com/m5tqzl9 Here is the abstract of the paper:

“Abstract: The symbolic ordination of trees as monks in Thailand is widely perceived in Western scholarship to be proof of the power of Buddhism to spur ecological thought. However, a closer analysis of tree ordination demonstrates that it is not primarily about Buddhist teaching, but rather is an invented tradition based on the sanctity of Thai Buddhist symbols as well as those of spirit worship and the monarchy. Tree ordinations performed by non-Buddhist minorities in Thailand do not demonstrate a religious commitment but rather a political one.”

In retrospect, I like that we ordained the tree. We take for granted much of our environment that treats us so well.

Photo by Scott Shaevel

Loving Things Equally

My father was able to love many things equally. He loved so many things that we had a two car garage that never had a car in it.

As a boy I would clamber around in the dark and dust and find things like ancient baseball gloves or WWII ribbons or patches. When I would trot something out, my father would tell me the story behind it, giving me glimpses into his life. The baseball glove for, instance, was his when he was young and athletic, wanting to try out for a team, but his father, my grandfather, who was a Methodist minister, forbade him because gambling had been associated with baseball and he didn’t want my father around it.

He still had his army uniform and mess kit from WWII, and he would tell me about his experiences of basic training and his different jobs as a staff sergeant. He was never in combat but saw a lot of the states by train while escorting AWOL soldiers back to their bases.

Each item had a story, even the old furniture of long dead relatives.

As he lay close to death in a hospital bed, he looked at me and said, “You know, I never got to clean the garage.” He was so sincerely regretful that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Now my garage is a museum of my past, my kid’s past, and, yes, even his past. I still have his uniform, some letters he wrote to my mother before they were married and his old slide projectors that he would use to torment us by showing vacation pictures on a sheet tacked on the dining room wall.

But you know, I can get a car in my garage-my wife’s!

—Robert Porter

For Now

Relaxed and sipping tea
                                    I ponder
                                                 thoughts of the day
                                                                           to the                                     
where they mix
                              cushioned thoughts from the past.
I shed my shoes
                              walk across them
                                                        feeling their
                                                                               gentle massage
      I am assured

                                                                                                 For Now 
                                                                                                 —karen smith


Winter Soup

Running in from outside, breathless and pink cheeked,
The girl holds the bowl of soup in two small hands.
Her chilled face tingles in the rising savory steam.
Closing her eyes, she drinks deep the golden miso.
“Yum,” she says, “it warms me all the way to my toes.”
In a swift, graceful moment, she puts down the bowl
And flies out the door to an ice crystal world.

The black shadows of memory draw lines over my mood.
A white winter sun outside is high and cold.
Sitting at the kitchen table, bundled up,
I look out the window to the hard frozen ground.
The soup tastes salty and bland and leaves me still empty.
Blowing on my fingers, I think, “When did I forget how to play?”
“How did I learn to feel cold in winter?”

—G. Elizabeth Law