The quote below by Wendell Berry echoes a recent text conversation with a friend. The texts referenced a decision I’d made while on an early visit to Throssel in around 1979. I’d decided I would take the steps to become ordained as a monk. My decision was set in the context of a life which had hit against a wall. And I was open. To make sure I didn’t go back on the decision I’d written a note with ‘I Know’ confirming what I ‘knew’ and put it with my toothbrush cubbyhole. It would be the first thing I’d see in the morning – the best of us go back on decisions especially ones which are life changing. More than one bride/bridegroom has been left standing at the altar!
The Wendell quote came recently in an email from a chap I’d met at Throssel. He was telling me about developments in his life since coming on an Introductory Retreat. Last year I believe. The words summed up an understanding he had come to.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
Friend: Your phrase ‘I know’ has been burning into my brain since I heard you say those words! Incredibly powerful and helpful. 6.20 pm
Me: Errm, in what context did I so impress you with my words ‘I know’? 8:56 pm
Friend: We were talking about the note you left for yourself about deciding to become a monk. It was so powerful and decisive. 10:17 am following day.
Me: Now I remember. In a sense I think one always ‘knows’ and the stuff of life is sifting through ‘the rest’! And allowing that to fall away, recycle etc. My ‘I know’ was life changing and the rest did fall into place. Magic! And still does, given patience. 10:37 am
So, The impeded stream is the one that sings. How amazing is that?
Last night I stayed on a 35 ft narrow boat (that’s NOT a barge), beside a canal, beside up market residential development. Beside train tracks running out of St Pancras mainline station. North London. The outfit, complete with canoe on the roof, owned by Julia a friend is tied up in a marina with its own dry dock. Started in the 1950 when this area was probably an industrial wasteland.
Right in the heart of north London homely pealing paint and rust co exist with chrome and speed. But for how much longer since this is a prime location which could easily go ‘up market. And price the current boaters out of the market. Life where ever you are and how ever the rain is stopped from coming in, is precarious. That’s the attraction, for me.
Somehow I am hearted by this pocket of cruising enthusiasts. Narrow boat people. ‘Did you feel that vibration under the boat in the middle of the night’? enquired Julia after my dreaming sleep on the bunk at the sharp end. Turns out not only are trains running just behind the boat there is a main line to Brighton tunneled underneath the marina.
It has been a great 24 hour adventure to the big city.
Yes, once again this Sunday I was out on the fell-tops where indeed ‘spirit meets bone’! Do I need to say more?
Once, over twenty years ago now, I mentioned to Rev. Master (Jiyu-Kennett) I’d been up on a Tor on Dartmoor in Devon while back in England to visit my family. She paused and smiled and said ‘you like being up high don’t you’. To which I replied, ‘Yes’! Up on the South Downs was about as high as she would have probably reached. But who knows. What I saw in her was Mudita, sympathetic joy. She shared in my obvious love of being out, looking out, on the vast landscape. Sunday was the perfect day to sit quietly up high and allow the majesty. A slight difficulty in my bones (ankle) a blessing, causing me to turn around before reaching Bowfell, the destination, and make a slow and careful descent, pausing lots.
My intention in sharing with you some of my ‘up high’ adventures is for you to join me in the joy.
How like life!
To move forward?
To tackle the obstacle?
To turn back?
Largely out of
we face the obstacle
Or do a little dance
wonder and stall
in the end we move.
These large lambs in the Langdale Valley – wandered off to graze on the abundant green grass that is all around them. We say in one of our scriptures that the obstacles dissolve and in a fundamental sense they do. The point is being awake and notice what’s in front. And for that matter what’s all around and within – unimaginable to behold. There is no stationary place we inhabit. Not even when sitting still!