Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Big Mind

I spent a large part of yesterday at the home of a friend, watching a wonderful DVD on Zen called "Big Mind." The presenter on the DVD, Genpo Roshi, did a wonderful job of walking us through the various voices in our heads, but whether or not you believe you can achieve Satori in three hours (apparently there's some controversy about his work among more traditional Buddhists) the true miracle of the day was our surroundings and the fabulous luncheon that was provided at the end of the morning.

I should have taken my camera, but I invite you to picture in your heads a lovely sunny room, open to a deck graced with a large buddha fountain, with windows overlooking the harbor below. Now add 10 beautiful and wise women seated around a table for 10, covered in a white tablecloth with white linen napkins, each with its own unique ceramic flowered napkin ring; tiny ceramic vases filled with delicate pink and white floral arrangements; crystal serving dishes filled with freshly steamed asparagus and herbed corn; white bowls filled with fragrant gazpacho topped with a coulis of crab and avocado; fresh baked copper river salmon; and homemade breadsticks wrapped with cheese.

The two women who put on the luncheon have an amazing gift for food preparation and hospitality... something that has, quite frankly, always eluded me -- which means I admire it all the more. I admire, too, other people's gifts for gardening -- like the friends we visited on Orcas last weekend, whose yard is a delight for the eyes all year round. Though I did have gardens in my younger days, all attempts to do so at our current residence have met with failure: the dune grass and the salt water have triumphed repeatedly. So this is our newest solution to the longing for flowers: we found some lovely glass ones at a shop on Orcas and have threaded them into the dune grass. The only live flowers in the yard are some clematis that have wrapped themselves around a white wicker chair I found at a garage sale, and these little florets growing out of the head of a goddess; I like to think of them as graceful outpourings from a fertile brain... or maybe they are just another manifestation of Big Mind!

At any rate, one of those wise women around the table just sent us all a Mary Oliver poem as a thank you for yesterday's gathering: it seems the perfect way to end this post.

I gave,
to a friend that I care for deeply,
something that I loved.
It was only a small

extremely shapely bone
that came from the ear
of a whale.
It hurt a little

to give it away.
The next morning
I went out, as usual,
at sunrise,

and there, in the harbor,
was a swan.
I don’t know
What he or she was doing there,

but the beauty of it
was gift.
Do you see what I mean?
You give, and you are given.

Oliver, Mary. “Philip’s Birthday” in Evidence. Beacon Hill Press, 2009


altar ego said...

I love the poem. It really reflects that notion of cosmic balance, giving and receiving, loss and birth. So glad you shared it.

Kimberly Mason said...

I love the way you described the luncheon, my mouth was watering!

karengberger said...

I love Mary Oliver...thank you for sharing this gift with us.


I agree with KM - my mouth was watering at the menu description. Mary Oliver's work is always a treat, thank you for sharing it.