The Dharma of the Insentient

‘Earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in the ten directions, carry out buddha work.’ (Dogen, Bendowa)

My English upbringing has left me quite susceptible to the vagaries of the weather, and although there is still rain in the forecast, we have been having a little heatwave of the kind that greeted me when I moved to San Francisco in May 2000, and that makes me very happy. It made for a warm afternoon of Roaming Zen on Sunday, though luckily the route included many shaded spots, including sitting just off the Bay Area Ridge Trail on piles of tree trunks, looking at Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire. We also took in the Wood Line curved sculpture by Lovers’ Lane, a great reminder, as I said to the group at the time, to look fresh at the contours of the landscape, especially a landscape that, like the materials, has been repurposed.

Both times I have driven up to San Rafael, the journey has caused some kind of stress, but arriving in the beautiful grounds of Dominican University, especially this time with the sun setting, the waxing moon in the sky, flowers around the buildings, and students sitting on the lawns, it was easy to relax. I didn’t feel especially worried about the talk, which may have contributed to my sense of it rather meandering after I had got into it. I have edited out the Q&A, and posted it on Soundcloud if you have a yen to listen to it.

On Tuesday I was glad to get out on a run at the end of the afternoon and burn off some of the stuck energy that had been coming up. Unlike the exploration towards Mount Davidson recently, this time I knew exactly what I was letting myself in for – the steep repeated climbs up to Twin Peaks, where a warm westerly breeze was bringing clear skies in from the ocean, encouraging the ravens to play in the eddies in close formation. I wasn’t going fast or far, and did not really succeed in clearing my energy, but I did get out to meet the mountain, and have it meet me, beyond conceptual distinctions.

Goldsworthy steeple
Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire, seen from a passing car a few years ago.

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