I normally reserve my travel experiences for outside of the country, but for the past 2 years, I’ve changed up a bit. A shift in experience always follows a shift in perception. I believe that my beliefs about the political and cultural environment of the U.S., has clouded and prevented my intimate knowing of the Earth. Let me explain.
On all of my travels outside of the country, I am enthralled by the beauty of the landscapes. The moon seems to shine differently, and the clouds above the mountains seem so alive, filled with the Spirit that animates them. The plants and the gardens are brimming with species that I rarely see in the U.S., or if I see them at all, only for brief spring and summer encounters, before the bitter cold that can invade the east coast. The trees seem not to bend and sway, but dance to the wind’s tune and rhythms, so seductive and sedative, even mildly erotic. From the east coast of Africa to the Andes, the visual impact is always the same, and it is with reluctance that I will say goodbye until next time, and board a flight back.
But in early April of this year, standing on the train platform that would have me downtown in twenty-minutes, I looked up at the sky. I saw the most luminous, featherlike clouds that I somehow had never witnessed and I took out my cell to capture them. In every direction that I turned, there was a performance of elegantly moving clouds, some joining others, some separating and racing ahead as if taking the lead in a waltz. When I sat down on the train, I continued cloud watching, knowing that I’d rarely looked up.
That I was always driving couldn’t have been the reason why I missed these earthly gems . I missed it only because of my preconceived notions about this land. I had somehow confused one thing for another, had missed innumerable opportunities to respond to the abundance, to give appreciation and gratitude for what human beings in all of their arrogance or humility could not create. This “Land,” as Vine Delora would say, this planet as I am saying now, regardless of the political mess that it might be in, is and remains a testament to the glory and infinite intelligence of the Unseen. There is not one day that passes that I don’t stop whatever I am doing to look at a tree (and there are plenty outside my back window), or to look at the vastness of the sky, the clouds that take the most magnificent shapes, or listen to the wind as it caresses the branches of my neighbor’s grapevine that has grown over my porch railing.
I am not saying that I am finished with traveling outside of the country. Not in the least. What I am saying is that all of this planet bears the same dazzling abundance, whether it is the white sand beaches of Tanzania, or the seemingly endless tree covered paths of Pennypack Park, Pennsylvania. That’s all I have to say about that.
I’ve wanted to visit Vermont since I was told of a wood burning stove artisan who lives there. That artisan happens to be the partner and companion of a longtime friend. Over the years, we’ve discussed her time in Vermont, the land, her garden, the harsh winters, and, of course, a relationship with an artist. So when I went to Vermont in the summer, I didn’t get the opportunity to see these artisanal stoves, but I did spend some time with some other friends who I have met in Mexico. My first stop was Putney, and if I had not gone any farther, I was sold on Vermont. The morning after I arrived, after breakfast and helping my host with some gardening, and a shower, I took a walk down a tree-lined road, dotted with 3 or 4 farm houses. This was the countryside that I had desired to live in a few years ago.
There are some things that stand out if you are accustomed to living in the city: the spacing of the houses, the quiet and rarity of a passing car. If you’re like me, of African descent, you don’t see very many folks like us. But that’s not the reason why I cannot see myself living in Vermont; it has more to do with the isolation I imagine I would feel. While I have described myself as a new monastic, I came to that identity living in the city, with the understanding that new monasticism was about interacting with the world rather than isolating one’s self from it. It is “being” and living monasticism as a way of creating a new experience which in turn contributes to the creation of a new earth experience. I’ll return to Vermont, but only for the long walks, and to sit in my friends’ garden in South Burlington and gaze at the lake.
Speaking of gardens, what a learning curve this summer. I bought a covered garden cage, and nothing much grew. Lesson: no interaction with critters and bees, no food. I’ll do it differently next year.
I’m back into A Course of Love, but I’ve returned to it, I believe, for the last time.
This has been a very trying year. I knew it was coming though. The easiest, now that I’ve done it, is to accept our true identity. I say easy because of where I am now. I won’t go into details, just now, because it’s something that I am still getting accustomed to. Enlightened is what we all are, naturally. Being aware of that enlightenment is not something that we all are. Sustaining that awareness is the path that returns us to our original Divine Consciousness. It affects everything. The most amazing and mind blowing realization for me is that everything that arises in my consciousness is my creation. Furthermore, and this is why ACIM emphasizes the responsibility that comes with “thought,” there is no separation between thought and experience; but now, from ACOL, I am aware that there is no separation of time between a desire and the experience of it.
Sometimes I imagine that things are unfolding a bit too quickly, that I may be missing out on the experience of the energy molding and grafting itself to accommodate my desire, or vision. Then I heard Rupert Spira say, responding to a question during satsang, desire planted in our awareness is God’s desire, and the energy of the unfolding of the desire taking form, is actually God beckoning us closer to Itself, calling us to return home. It is such a comfort to know this. I’ve accepted that there are some things that my finite mind could never fathom about the Divine Order. I’ve also accepted that this is a ride that I never have to get off.