The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Last night a friend called to say hello, just to check in, since we hadn't been in touch for several weeks.  We've known one another a long time, 23 years, and have shared with one another many of the inevitable twists and turns, ups and downs, small and large dramas of our personal lives, as well as the ebb and flow of our friendship.  
Through it all, our friendship remains.

One of her best qualities, and one she shares often, is a sense of humor, bracketed by a lovely poetic sensibility....imagine a cross between Erma Bombeck, Emily Dickinson and an earthy Italian Strega Nona!
Yes, she has a really unique view of the world.
Sometime I know it is Right View!

We were comparing pain notes:  she has a fractured foot, sustained while walking off a curb after loading up a U-Haul van with the contents of her recently deceased parent's home in New England.  One death had been a long time coming, the other had been a shock--both deaths occurred within a month's time.  
I think this sort of timeline must make the dining room table, chairs and buffet terribly heavy.  Steps out to the curb with brimming boxes of kitchen paraphernalia seem endless.  

Donald Hall wrote a lovely book called String Too Short To Be Saved, a book that says as much about Yankee frugality as it does about how we define ourselves by those objects we put aside.
I found myself wondering about the weight of what my friend had stuffed in the U-Haul and the weight of what she had left behind.  

Many objects have obvious and immediate worth--a scruffy bedside table and reading lamp (shabby chic!) will find a new home with my friend's son.  A box of assorted linens and towels, maybe a bit threadbare, can be put to use somewhere else.
But what about the collection of  Valentine's Day cards found in the back of a closet, one for each of the 68 years her parents were married?  What about 4 brittle and yellowed christening gowns, but only two siblings? 
Or her father's basement wood shop tools, never the best quality, still spread on the wood bench as if recently used? There are several wooden toys he was in the process of creating for his grandson, toys that were never completed, as the grandson grew up to be a young man. 

These are objects that were once assigned significant value, but are now relatively valueless without the personal memory or experience shared with others to bring them to life.  

Perhaps the grandson never knew his grandfather was building him a wooden barn with farm animals.  The incomplete creation never made it up the basement stairs.
And the Valentines were secreted away in a place where only my friend's mother knew they still held magic.

Discovering these objects is disconcerting, not only because we don't know whether to chuck them or treasure them, but also because it forces us to redefine what we once thought was knowable and fixed.

The state of un-knowing is sometimes enough to walk us off cliffs, into the wide blue emptiness; whether we rise unscathed or with a fractured foot or compressed vertebra is hardly the point....some might say there is no point.

Or maybe the point is to help us realize that there never was a cliff to begin with....

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