news from Ireland:
this year from the apple trees
I wrote this haiku for David O Riordan, an artist and poet who posts on Twitter under the moniker: @Batuphonos. David writes haiku in English and Irish, using the traditional 5-7-5 syllable structure. I find his poems crisp and evocative and I always enjoy them.
By chance I came upon a song today, that I thought was very beautiful. The song is by Tenzin Choegyal and it is called Snow Lion. How is it that an air sung in a language so far beyond my ken, can make me feel: an inexpressible yearning, a deep separation, an intrinsic emptiness deep in the belly of my soul?
Following Tenzin Choegyal’s brief description, and encouraged by his smile, I imagined the snow lion and its elegant steps over snow topped peaks. What would it be like to be deep in those mountains and hear that Śūnyatā roar, that thunderclap cry, that silent yet deafening call to awakening? Would you cover your ears as dragons topple from the sky?
In my mind’s eye, as I listened to the song, I saw a foolish traveler, lost, and snow blind, stumbling through a blizzard on a snow covered plateau. His hands are raised over his face against the flakes that fly into his eyes, when he glimpses, hears, perceives, a snorted breath of steam. There amidst the endless white and through the swirling flurries, a hint of turquoise mane. The great white weight of it turns about: wonder made manifest. The snow lion tosses his mane and stomps. The snow lion is dancing…
The white snowlion, with its turquoise mane (seng dkar g.yu ral can), is the famous Tibetan emblem representing the snowy ranges and glaciers of Tibet. It symbolises power and strength and has served as a unifying national symbol for Tibetans during the modern era… Many Tibetan folk songs and proverbs mention the snowlion as inhabiting the highest mountains since he is the “king of beasts” (ri dwags rgyal po), towering over less powerful animals…Two of the most famous Tibetan culture heroes, Mi la ras pa and Ge sar, are said to have been raised by a white snowlioness, the queen of beasts, who also brings prosperity…
~ Mona Schrempf: “The Earth-ox and the Snow Lion“
The Snow Lion resides in the East and represents unconditional cheerfulness, a mind free of doubt, clear and precise. It has a beauty and dignity resulting from a body and mind that are synchronized. The Snow Lion has a youthful, vibrant energy of goodness and a natural sense of delight.
~ Rudy Harderwijk: “The Four Dignities“
The lion’s roaming free over the mountain peaks show that the yogin has gained the realm of absolute freedom.
~ Robert Beer: The Handbook of Tibetan Symbols
Snow Lion sung by Tenzin Choegyal:
Following the expulsion of all Chinese nationals from Tibet after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912, the Dalai Lama felt a need to create a new flag that represented his country’s aspirations for the future… The single snow lion was replaced by a pair of snow lions in front of a triangular white mountain. They hold aloft three blazing jewels representing the Buddha, his teachings, and the Buddhist monastic order. Below them is the swirling jewel of perfection. The rising golden sun symbolizes Tibet’s bright future, and the six rays of light radiating from it refer to the six tribes that originally constituted the people of Tibet. These splay across a blue sky that stands for the equality of everyone under heaven.
~ John Powers, David Templeman: Historical Dictionary of Tibet.
My impatience has been rewarded.
On the assumption that we had just come from elsewhere into our universe, who looking at the yolk of a pheasant’s egg would predict pheasant feathers? Who looking at an eight-legged, bald, green cabbage caterpillar would predict a white butterfly? Who looking at an anthropod’s jawbone would predict an acoustic bone that enables us to hear Handel’s ‘Largo’? Who looking at the nebula out of which our solar system condensed would predict a honeybee collecting pollen from a harebell or the Mandukya Upanishad?
We live in an evolving universe, in a surprising universe, and it would be stupid not to predispose ourselves accordingly.
…Reconfiguration whether anatomical or mental or both simultaneously isn’t outlandish to life. Indeed, the entire universe might one day spin a cocoon for itself and who, looking at it now, can say what it will metamorphose into?
From Night Journey to Buddh Gaia by John Moriarty, a wonderful and massive doorstep of profundity which arrived at my own doorstep earlier today.
From Wikipedia: “Wolves were once an integral part of the Irish countryside and culture…
…Wolves feature prominently in Irish mythology…
…The last reliable observation of a wolf in Ireland comes from County Carlow when a wolf was hunted down and killed near Mount Leinster for killing sheep in 1786.”
Excerpt from Wolf-Time:
“Why is it that Irish historians will not talk at this level about Irish history? Why will they not ask the big questions?
Here, for example, is a big question: the shot that rang out one night in Maam Valley in Connemara? What, compared to it, is the sailing away of the Irish chieftains from Ireland?
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea and the destructive sword are portions of eternity to great for the eye of man.
There it is: one night in the Maam Valley we killed a portion of eternity.
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
…Megalithic language, or languages we silenced; Bear language we silenced; Boar language we silenced; Wolf language we silenced.
Our history if the history of our success in making ourselves and our world unreal.
Mostly, it is from unreality that we suffer. From that and from the wrong kind of man-made reality.
…Sadly, we haven’t yet seen that prospering man-made unreality is, if anything, more dangerous to us than prospering, primal reality was.
Better Céol Cúaine(1) than the ever-hungering, ever unhappy, ever-unsatisfied, inaudibly howling vacancy we have replaced it with.
…Better any day our chances with a real wolf than with the Wolf of Vacancy.
In Nordic myth this Wolf of Vacancy is called Fenris Wolf or, as commonly, Fenrir. In order for our world to be at all possible, so the story goes, Tyr, a great and mighty god, had to bind him, had to lay him up in chains in an underworld. But everyone, including Tyr himself, knows full well that Fenrir will one day slip his chains, he will emerge and run free. Opening his mouth, he will advance his lower jaw under the earth and his upper jaw over the sun. Sun and earth and all in between he will swallow, and for Fenrir that is just a mouthful.
Ever since we first set foot in Ireland we have been creating our own Fenrir, our own Wolf of Vacancy, our own Apocalyptic Wolf of Apocalyptic Vacancy.
What we would see if we lifted our eyes from our ledgers is that at this stage there is no binding him, no laying him up in chains, out of sight, in an underworld.
So here it is, Foras Feasa ar Éirinn(2):
Lights gone out in Ireland’s last wolf are lights coming on
in a not inconsiderably larger wolf,
are lights coming on
The Wolf of Vacancy”
From Invoking Ireland: Ailiu Iath n-hErend by John Moriarity, the best book I read last year. Indeed the best book I have read in many years. What is it? It’s a book about landscape, history and myth, but also a book about the hunger we all feel for something more than the shabby world we have created. It is a re-awakening of the world’s soul. Hungering still for more soul-sustenance, I recently ordered this book: Night Journey to Buddh GaiaAnd I am impatiently waiting its arrival.
1. Céol Cúaine = The music of wolves
2. Foras Feasa ar Éirinn = History of Ireland
“In our daily life, we breathe, but we forget we’re breathing. The foundation of all mindfulness practice is to bring our attention to our in-breath and out-breath. This is called mindfulness of breathing, or conscious breathing. It’s very simple, but the effect can be very great. In our daily life, although our body is in one place, our mind is often in another. Paying attention to our in-breath and out-breath brings our mind back to our body. And suddenly we are there, fully present in the here and now…
…I’d like to offer you a practice poem you can recite from time to time, while breathing and smiling:
Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
As my in-breath grows deep,
My out-breath grows slow.
Breathing in, I calm my body,
Breathing out, I feel at ease.
Breathing in, I smile,
Breathing out, I release.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
You can shorten this to the words below, one word or phrase per breath:
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment.
The present moment is the only moment that is real. Your most important task is to be here and now and enjoy the present moment.”
From Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thích Nhất Hạnh, a comprehensive guide to living your daily life with full awareness, whether working, walking, eating, talking, simply sitting or brushing your teeth!
Hotei is an Asian folkloric figure originating in China where he is called Budai. His name 布袋 basically means cloth bag, and refers to the sack he always carries with him. In Japan he is one of the Seven Lucky Gods (七福神) and one tradition is that rubbing his belly will bring you good luck.
Traditionally, Hotei is depicted as fat, bald, wearing a simple robe and carrying a cloth bag. He is poor, carrying his few possessions in his sack, but always happy and content. When he meets Zen practioners he immediately demands of them a coin, but all the money he gains he uses to buy candies for children.
Kōan: Hotei would wander through the marketplace handing out candies to children. Once Hotei was confronted on the street by a Zen scholar who challenged him with the question: “What is the meaning of Zen?”
Hotei’s reply was to stop in his tracks, throw down his sack and remain motionless.
Dissatisfied with this response the scholar questioned him further: “What is the expression of Zen?”
Hotei immediately picked up his sack and carried on his way, laughing and handing out candies to the children that swarmed about him.
Oddly enough on the day that I visited the Ran Hotei cafe a large party of costumed children came in trick or treating for Halloween, and there in the midst of them all was Randy, for all the world just like Hotei, with a big smile on his face, handing out his candies.
This is the first meditation in a book of 52 daily inspirations entitled Moments of Mindfulness by Thích Nhất Hạnh. “This book is designed so you can focus on one meditation as your practice for the week. You can carry this meditation with you throughout the whole week… The saying can help you to remain more mindful, aware, and happy even under difficult circumstances. You can read this meditation each morning right after waking up and again before you go to sleep. There are fifty-two meditations, so you can begin at any point in the year and continue with a different meditation each week for a full year.”
Farewell Boardwalk Empire
I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy — I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it —
Came out with a fortune last fall,
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all...
- The Spell of the Yukon by Robert W. Service
Five seasons of finely crafted storytelling, immaculately presented and produced, with some of the best actors giving top performances, Boardwalk Empire finally came to a close on Sunday October 26th 2014. I just watched the final scene. I’ll miss Nucky Thompson. Damn, I’ll even miss that theme tune. That’s definitely a show I could go back to. If you haven’t seen it, well worth your time.
On our frequent visits to Balinese restaurant Wayang Bali (oh that tempeh! oh that banana tempura!) I keep hearing this song and I have come to like it. I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but it sounds pretty positive doesn’t it? Everything’s gonna be okay!
Bondan Prakoso (born May 8, 1982) is an Indonesian singer-songwriter, bass guitarist, and record producer. He is known as the former bassist of rock band Funky Kopral (1999–2003) and the lead singer of the rap rock collaboration band, Bondan Prakoso & Fade 2 Black (2005–present). From Wikipedia.
With the exception of the odd weekend diversion and a four day break in Okinawa, I actually spent the bulk of the summer sat at this desk, trying to re-learn all the stuff I studied (and forgot) ten years ago. That was how I wanted to spend my summer and that is what I did. Summer did come to a bit of a crashing halt on September 1st however, when I suddenly fell sick – with mumps of all things. I have just spent the last two and a half weeks in a sorry kind of limbo where I couldn’t do much else but sleep. I am finally back to normal however, and will be heading back to work tomorrow exactly one week late.
Poor Mewby though, having nursed me kindly through the worst of it, has now taken up the mumps baton…