I have been writing this column for almost eight years now. As I look through the range of topics that interest me, I notice that every month I have the same feeling: "What could I write about now?" Like an artist with blank canvas syndrome, I wonder what new thoughts I could bring to the page. The themes I seem to return to again and again are those about how to live, the centrality of meditation, death and dying, the arts, self-expression, human rights and well-being. animals, ecology and activism, and what it means to be. human here and now in these seemingly impossible times.
It is true that in every recorded human period, people always seem to think and write that theirs is theirs. le time: the most intense situations or problems, conflicts, concerns, progress, etc. But aside from the threat of nuclear action, war and potential devastation during the Cold War – and various other periods in history – have there been other times in the human timeline where man-made disasters, violence and destruction have always been so severe. disastrous or potentially threatening to life on Earth? I'm not a historian, so I'm not interested in facts, dates, extreme precision or positioning. I'm an artist at heart, a free thinker and a creator, although it's been a long time since I created something more tangible than baked goods, window curtains or handmade gifts for my nieces and nephews.
This leads me to believe that I am not offering anything substantial, crucial, or inextricably necessary to our human community. But I know this is not true, because each of us has value in our fundamental existence. Our human kindness has the potential to offer more than our daily complaints or our half-hearted work. Each of us is here to make a difference, no matter how small, even if it goes unrecorded. Crucial contributions are made regularly and are not captured by social media, the smartphone camera, voice memos, or selfies. Real human interaction is still the currency of intimacy, belonging, and a life well lived.
The simple fact that I am still able to wake up, bend my creaking limbs, put on shoes and walk into the nearby woods, just looking at the still pond, feeling the breeze in the leafless branches, the woodpeckers flitting from trunk to trunk searching for larvae in the brittle bark. There may be no purpose other than to simply be, even if the urge to find one is strong – a reason we linger here as we age, struggle with depression and a feeling of vain helplessness in the face of the brutalities broadcast throughout the world. I read the stories of those who live impressive lives, tragic lives, interesting or comical lives, and if there is a common thread between them, it is one that I share as well.
We are only truly human in relation to other people and animals, insects, the ground and sky, clouds and flowing waters. Behind this building, although it is a muddy stream at best, I know the river it flows into. I know the largest river it will join and I know the sea – a few hours from here – towards which all these waterways cry and cling.
Winter is the most difficult time. My limbs reject it, eager for the warmth of the sun, the air and the earth. Yet winter is a time to seek our own inner courage, to know the limits of our efforts, hopes and efforts rather than turning inward for sustenance. Every fall I think, "I can't do this again." I am a creature of spring and summer! » This icy cold, this limitless darkness, these short days offering rare hours of warm sunshine in the pale gray sky of desire for spring buds.
Death is an easy companion for winter thoughts, winter writing, winter artwork: Death is all around us and shows our thirst for life, connection and belonging. In winter, we seek belonging in our bones and sinews. It's a natural time to meditate, to contemplate our own demise, and to embrace our inner artist, whatever that might mean. We simply fold the laundry well and take our time to tackle the tasks of the day, the schedules of the work week with discipline and dedication to what is essential. We can imbue our waking hours with the woolly wish for the awakening of all beings, especially in these dark times, by protecting the inner flame that burns within each of us. We revere life, no matter where it comes from. No matter how weak or powerful our belief, we long for some kind of future to believe in, belong to, and create.
As Buddhists, we know that our days are numbered, like those shortest days in the northern hemisphere leading up to the winter solstice on December 21. We therefore cultivate the inner light of lucid knowledge. We pray for ourselves and others may feel too – even the beetle on the window frame, the squirrel in the garden, the neighbor's cat hovering around the porch, as it shelters itself from a wind cold, while being entirely turned towards the morning and its sun. possibilities fulfilled. Solstice comes from the Latin meaning, the sun remains still. Let's take a moment to pause, embrace calm, and in this space, say a prayer for all sentient beings:
May all beings be free.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings know the source of happiness and freedom.
May all beings never be separated from the source of freedom and happiness, now and ultimately.