I sit cross-legged on a couch, a blanket on my lap, a desk lamp standing on a book case to my left, and an easel table over my knees. In the quiet house, I get to read, write, plan, and look through a bank of windows in the sunroom that we added after we moved here seven years ago.
This morning there are a few rain drops falling and the pine boughs swaying across the arroyo announce that more rain may be on the way.
As the dawn light edges out the darkness that ruled when I first sat down, old memories stir within, like the pine branches outside. It’s a mystery how memories and sensitivity to the present appear to come from the same realm—like a bank account in which past deposits fuel current withdrawals. But the ebb and flow of life seems to come from a wider body of consciousness than our own local perspective within it.
In the memory that arose this morning, I was back in Montreal during a work day, the year I worked for Bell Canada on a data base shared by the ten provincial phone companies. It was lunchtime and, waiting at a traffic light, I looked up into the sky.
Three dissociated, flying objects were dancing side-by-side in the Montreal sky: the Moon, pale in the mid-day Sun; a bird heading south with slow, measured wingbeats; and a jet, like the nursery rhyme cow, gracefully arcing across the face of the Moon. In that moment, I knew I needed to be living a different kind of life.
That was half a century ago and I still remember what an odd sense I experienced in that moment. Four entities arose in my field of consciousness: the Moon far beyond the sphere of human affairs, a bird crossing the city, a commercial jet heading to parts unknown, and a young man feeling the weight of his unfulfilled dreams.
Time–the essential mystery that is present throughout our lives—now adds a fifth participant to that dancing foursome in Montreal: my present self–seated comfortably in a house in New Mexico, scribbling on a yellow pad in a cone of yellow light from a lamp my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday 20 years ago—alternately glancing forward into the awakening world outside, back through the kaleidoscope of remembrance, and in between on the rope bridge slung between those two shores.
What are we to make of it all?
Do we name it God’s created world—an emanation of a great Being for whom time does not pass? Can we glimpse in our own consciousness a reflection of a greater light in which we cannot help but participate? Are we able to enter a flowing time that joins memory with the experience of being alive right now? Can we view the space in which tree branches bob outside in the morning breeze—like ships rocking in a harbor—as the same space that allows us to see and hear and remember? Could the mind that sees and hears, notices and remembers–eternally born and reborn into this realm of mystery and light– provide a passageway to join our unique being with that greater whole?
I’m not sure our answers to such questions matter that much. Greater minds than my own have left lamps of insight which help me to see and make my own way. As I toss back and forth, buffeted by waves of mood and uncertainty, I search in vain for a place to stand amid the constant ebb and flow. But relying on the wisdom of steadier minds, I intuit that the movement of my breath and the breaking forth of a new dawn are like birds crossing the gulf of a deep stillness—coasting in perfect safety across an open sky.