I’ve arrived at Marsh House, the Aldermarsh Retreat Center on Whidbey Island, Washington. It is late afternoon, with the sun, low now, playing though the soft clouds. It’s maybe sixty degrees, in late March. I sit on the patio and look out on a green meadow, grapevines, a fenced garden where the deer may not intrude. Friends chat on a bench near cherry trees that are in full bloom. A Thai Buddha sits in a hand thrown, fine-walled pot filled with water, and the scent of Daphne Odora tinges the air. One kind of paradise.
This group has gathered for four days to be mostly quiet together. Although faces are familiar, all is unknown, just as it should be. Why would I want to make assumptions about our time together? That could only limit the eternal moment where I always find myself. One of our group tore the ACL in her knee on the airplane ride here—while slipping back into her seat after going to the bathroom. Who could know? What circumstances, causes, and conditions brought her, and us, to this moment? The question does not even need to be asked, much less answered. No reason, no need for reason. It simply is. Janet is on crutches with a big black brace on her leg—it is inconvenient, probably painful, but she arrives with grace and no complaint. A smile, even. The unknown. She doesn’t know what is really wrong with her knee—the hospital only took x-rays, not an MRI. That knowing will come later.
A robin with a bright yellow beak listens, tilting its head at the ground. Then punches its beak into the ground for the insect it heard. The insect certainly didn’t know what was coming, that this particular moment it would become nourishment for the bird.
What is this human desperation to know? Most of us are petrified of how short life turns out to be; death, the greatest unknown, looms as we grow older. We are terrified of being completely out of control, which of course we are, always. If we try to force an outcome, or even gently form how the next moment should look, we limit the wisdom of the present moment to unfold naturally, in its own chaotic beauty.
The tulips slowly close their bright, rose-salmon petals as cool, moist air sweeps in from the ocean. The sun is down, now. I see my husband walking over from the garden. He may stop and speak to me, or he might not. I’m happy not knowing.
© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013
photo credit: NASA for the pencil nebula