Sunday, March 8, 2009


"Some years after getting sober, I was standing at the kitchen sink in my cottage in Concord, washing dishes. Above the sink was a window through which I could see a row of fifty-foot-tall pine trees that lined the driveway. That day as I did the dishes, I was watching a squirrrel busy doing whatever it is that squirrels do, when I had a powerful experience. A voice inside me, the voice of awarenesss, said to me, "You can't sleep, so now what?" I began to laugh. It was a moment of complete acceptance. I finally understood that I just was how I was. To resist, to fight, to attempt to alter the essential nature of my life, was in fact making matters worse, and now I understood that I simply needed to learn how to live with the reality of who I was. In this moment I discovered that it was here, in the midst of suffering and confusion, that healing and transformation can take place, if I can stop trying to escape."
(p. 54, from At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace, by Claude Anshin Thomas, a monk in the Soto Zen tradition).

"Though my understanding of peace continues to grow and change, I do know that peace is not the absence of conflict; it's the absence of violence within conflict."
(p. 151, from At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace, by Claude Anshin Thomas)

"Everyone has their Vietnam," Thomas writes. "Everyone has their own experience of violence, calamity, or trauma." With simplicity and power, this book offers timelesss teachings on how mindfulness and compassion can transform our lives.
(from the back cover)

Claude Anshin Thomas's memoir helped fill out what I know of R's story. There was so much R couldn't tell me in his letter in 2005 or ever. As for my part, there were passages in his letter that were so disturbing to me that I was afraid to write back to him. It was not so much what he said but something I could hear in his words that reminded me that he suffered from nearly a lifetime of uncontrollable bouts of rage and that he could lash out violently at those he loved and then experience unbearable remorse. When I showed the letter to my Jungian psychotherapist, he suggested that it would probably not be a good idea for me to respond to R's letter.

At the beginning of the letter R wrote, "Took some long walks with Jesus." The Bob he refers to is Bob Dylan.

In the photos above, looking east from my porch, you can see the rapid changes in the sky in the late afternoon yesterday. As I look at the past, I am grateful for the way it can bring me back to the present day and present sky, if I am open to that choice. R loved the changing sky. I wonder what happened to his large painting of huge white clouds in a clear blue sky. He wrote about the beauty of the land and sky in Vietnam in the midst of war.

This morning's sky to the east:

1 comment:

Loren said...

Strange Weather, indeed.

Somehow we'll survive.