Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eclipse Meditation



There Was a Boy

There was a Boy; ye knew him well, ye cliffs
And islands of Winander! many a time,
At evening, when the earliest stars began
To move along the edges of the hills,
Rising or setting, would he stand alone,
Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake;
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,
Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls
That they might answer him.—And they would shout
Across the watery vale, and shout again,
Responsive to his call,—with quivering peals,
And long halloos, and screams, and echoes loud
Redoubled and redoubled; concourse wild
Of jocund din! And, when there came a pause
Of silence such as baffled his best skill:
Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain-torrents; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
Its woods, and that uncertain heaven received
Into the bosom of the steady lake.

William Wordsworth, 1798


I listened to the poet David Whyte read this Wordsworth piece last night as part of workshop recording I have of his. This was part of my extended meditation in connection with the solstice and lunar eclipse we had overnight. I chanted the precepts, listened to David's talk, and sat in silence until 1am, about half an hour after the eclipse started.

Hearing this poem stood out for me for a few reasons. First, when I was an English major, I really disliked Wordsworth. I always called him "the guy who got his words worth" because his poems always seemed so long-winded. I'm mean, who writes a several hundred page introduction to another poem (which never really got written by the way)?

Anyway, I was sitting on my zafu listening to the poem being read, when I heard these words a second time:

And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,


Suddenly, I saw gassho rise up through me. Not just an image, but the experience of gassho-ing. As if I were "an instrument" for gassho.

After the poem finished, I got up and clicked back to hear it again, and this time there was this:

Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain-torrents


At the end, I turned off the recording, and sat back down in silence. Those words kept rattling around with me as I sat, until finally I turned to look out the window behind me. The sky was cloudy, but I knew the now partially eclipsed moon was there.

I listened.

Something was rattling outside the window. Falling ice? Squirrels? A person?

It didn't matter what. This was the call and response of life at the moment. Bigger than anything I, or Wordsworth, or anyone could capture, but including us too. Yes, including us too.

4 comments:

Adam said...

Beautiful

Dean Crabb said...

Nathan, awesome post. Love it!

MeANderi said...

How beautiful Nathan... "the call and response of life" as we just sit and listen in Silence... Yes!
Christine

peter said...

How sweet; thank you Nathan.

"Interior silence is impossible without mercy and without humility," writes Thomas Merton.