Weekend jottings in the garden

MAY 17 04

SATURDAY – Watching a ground beetle follow the path of the cement between the pieces of the crazy paving, sitting in the sun.

Periodically dwelling on discontent, unable to be interested in anything that swells a progress. But in front of me by the oregano, tall uncut grasses behind his head, the Buddha still smiles, reminding me what my path is. My life has become little more than sitting in the garden facing west, with the nembutsu on my lips. Some years ago, I read of a follower of the Pure Land way in medieval Japan who took down his garden fence to the west and simply sat all day facing in that direction saying the nembutsu. I remember thinking to myself at the time, how can anyone reduce their life to so little? Yet I have done something similar, and when I momentarily seem to regret it Amida's name comes to mind, and even the sparrows sound like they are chirping it.

Hankerings have died down, lusts a thing of the past, and though I cannot say I am truly content, or even going anywhere, nonetheless I realise life is a quickly passing matter and not what it seems. I may as well seek satisfaction in my natural curiosity into the lives of insects, birds, and plants. So saying a chalk blue flutters by and for a moment settles on the bramble, an ant thoroughfare at the moment, they run along the thick stem roads with thorn hills either side. Peace comes gradually, through wanting nothing, and though pent up in me there is still vague discontent I know it will go.

Even though all I am doing is just sitting in the garden, life rushes by in a continual stream of decaying and growing moments. I have never been readier to die, although I think I'd like to see my runner beans reach the tops of their canes and am happy enough to see another summer become an autumn and a winter, since these cycles are a treasure of the world.

I am moved, my eyes water, with football shouts and sunlight dancing inside a plastic bucket. The shadow of a butterfly passes over this very page like the running script of an Emperor's hand – and this marks the loss of my discontent, as if delivered from it by sign and seal. Something in me always seeks to climb out of dark corners by whatever temporary anchor casts a familiar resemblance to a greater idea, as a wild sweetpea will even knot its tendrils to a mere blade of tall grass for support. And now comes the sound of the breeze rustling the world, swaying it like a grass-skirted dancer. And the movement is complete.


SUNDAY – A pile of books of Chinese poetry in the garden, cup of Lapsang on an upended brick my teastand, plants brought out from indoors in pots to enjoy the sun. The Buddha smiles, his sunlit contours and shade, two swordslash blades of grass across his face like green gashes in his stone cheek.

Yesterday my neighbour asked if I was capturing fairies. I looked behind to where he gestured, unsure what he was talking about – bobs of white torn-up blanket I've tied to the tops of short canes so I don't accidentally poke my eye out.

Reading in the sun, the meaning of Su Dongpo's description of the way water boils for making tea dawns on me. He wrote:

After the crab eyes, the fish eyes appear.

The first bubbles to appear in water being brought to the boil reluctantly leave the inner surface of the kettle as if on extended stalks, like crab eyes. Then the many popping fish eyes follow as the water approaches a rolling boil.

Yesterday's malaise of the spirit has completely gone. Just cycles like weather.