At a writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg, my duties were: Monday, snuff candles; Tuesday afternoon, sweep porch; Thursday morning, sweep zendo. I was in Taos, New Mexico to write, yet the teacher, a longtime student of Zen Buddhism, was also teaching her students to be present in each moment, to notice the dust gathering in corners of the room, and to participate in small actions that would create a healthy community.
Natalie knew that writing is about observing. Artistic expression is a reflection of our eyes taking in the landscape of life and transferring it to a poem, canvas, sculpture, or song. I love the small moments of awakening that occur when I am still. This morning’s sunrise with a fire-orange mound peeking above the distant mountain range, was a radiant blaze in the sky. Sitting at my shrine, I was part of the miracle of morning. No matter what humanity thinks we understand about life, no matter how brilliant our minds, we cannot change the time of a sunrise, or the quarters of the moon. We cannot stop the winds of tornadoes, or the waters of a hurricane. We are glowing embers of the sun’s burning light, sprinkles of dust on the land.
“People when they walk on the land leave their breath wherever they go. So wherever we walk, that particular spot on earth never forgets us, and when we go back, we know that the people who have lived there are in some way still there, and that we can actually partake of their breath and their spirit.”
– Rina Swentzell of the Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico