Sunday, June 26, 2011

Drive Time

            Friday morning I’m on the road by eight am, driving out of Klamath Falls, headed for Willamette Pass, and the quirky little town I call home.  It’s been a long week, living out of a hotel room, working long hours.
            The long, blue span of Klamath Lake recedes on my left, and I am in the desert hills working my way north.  As I drive, there is only the hum of tires on pavement to keep me company.  The events of the week slip away.  I put on some music, turn it off after only a couple of minutes.  The silence is more soothing.
            Belatedly, I realize I am in a mindful state.  I am alert and aware, tracking the hazards on the road, but my mind is free of discursive thought.  I watch each mile tick by, one about every minute.  It’s almost like watching the breath come and go.  The highway is flanked on both sides by rolling hills covered in sagebrush.  Momentarily, I am startled by a deer standing on the side of the road, and I slow, my attention completely focused for just a moment.  When I’m past, the cruise control set back at 65, the mind state returns instantly, naturally.  This is where healing happens.
            I stop in a little town called Chemult and get a bottle of water, make a phone call.  And then, back to my two-lane, blacktop guru.  Up on the pass, there is a brief moment when the trees are mixed, Douglas Fir and Ponderosa pine.  And then, suddenly, they are all Douglas Fir, and the underbrush thickens steadily.  At about three thousand feet of elevation, I sight the first bracken fern by the roadside.  Internally, I cheer.
            I’m home.  The desert has its own beauty, but the ferns and high underbrush of the western valley are my home.  The air is pouring into my little world inside the car, and smells richly of wet earth.
            Now I’m counting down the miles from Oakridge, now the short stretch of I-5, and there is exit 192, Downtown Eugene.  For thirty minutes, I can’t make myself go inside.  I wander the streets, people watching, feeling the aura of my hometown, putting it back on.  And then, suddenly, I’m so tired I can hardly stand.  I go home, nap for a couple of hours, and return to town.
            And have a beer with my lovely friend, Brittney, who regales me with tales of a summer festival here last weekend.  What a beautiful way to return to discursive thought.  If I must.

Monday, June 13, 2011


                This is a term that Buddhists apply to our inner environment.  Literally, it means “made up of lots  of little pieces.”  In reference to the mind and personality, it means that we humans assemble a world out of many, many thoughts and other internal events.  There are so many pieces, and they materialize so quickly, that we come to assume this isn’t happening.  We come to assume that reality is a river flowing past us.
                Today on a walk up the hill, I become acutely aware of the aggregates.   The walking is an ideal device to create some space around the steady parade of events in my head and heart.  I see there is quite a river of reflective thought about a situation at work.  There are other thoughts about getting older, my health, my social life, and more, but this one situation has taken center stage.  Belatedly, thanks to the walking, I realize that I’ve come to focus so intensely on this one thing that it’s come to define my whole life lately.
                There is also awareness of my body as another aggregate.  I experience the walking in a body that has transient pains here and there; my back is stiff, my feet hurt, I have a dry scratchy throat.  I’m also very pleasantly aware of the stretch and thrust of strong muscles in my legs, of a sense of balance finely tuned over many years of walking and climbing in precarious, windy places.  This body loves to move, and it feels so, so good.  There is an aggregate of feelings, too.  There is anxiety, about nothing in particular.  There is a celebratory sense of accomplishment about work.  There are a hundred other feelings running through me like a mountain stream cascading over cool, wet stones.
                At the top of the hill, I sit on a bench and watch the city go by.  And while sitting there, I begin to play hide and seek with the aggregates.  Now they are “out there” and I am examining them.  Now I’ve fallen in, and lost track of myself, and I am living them.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


                This morning, I find Sue in the garden, weeding.  I sit with her briefly and chat while I write the monthly rent check, then I step into the car and drive off into a perfectly glorious spring day.  The greens in the Lorane valley are vibrant, a raptor wheels overhead, and bicyclists spin past me on the way, probably, to wine tastings up the valley.  This is all perfectly typical.
                Why is it then, that I feel so, so happy?  The world out there is not different, it’s been like this for weeks.  Of course, there is only one possible conclusion; my inner environment has changed.
                I find myself looking forward to every moment this day has on offer; a walk in the woods, a nice lunch, phone calls to valued friends, a cold beer on the patio.  Later, I’ll read myself to sleep.  All of it is savored today, because of how I am inside.  I find myself wishing I could live here all the time, instead of in the space I was in when I wrote my last post.  Wouldn’t that be nice, if I could be in this spacious, accepting, savoring place all the time, or even just more of the time?
                Spending time in silent contemplation certainly increases the average.