Sitting by a Still Pond

Here I sit, on a rock by a still pond. It is early evening, the last rays of the setting sun filters through the tops of the trees. Too early for the Loon but the Cardinal calls out for its mate as the woods settle in, ready to transition to night.

Across the pond in a small cove, I can just make out a Great Blue Heron balanced on one leg. I imagine the concentration, the analysis and observation of the pond’s murky bottom.

I sink deep into this place, wet and primeval with almost infinite shades of gold and green, with moss and lichen that covers the ground and wraps around the base of trees. Water bugs scoot around the rock outcropping where I sit, moving rapidly in great number and variety and I sense the presence of bass and pickerel lurking lazily below.

It all seems like a gift and the words from an old Shaker hymn float into my head:

‘Tis the gift to be simple,

‘Tis the gift to be free,

I have been given the gift of solitude tucked away in the deep woods, alone with mind and spirit and peace while the world in which I live and work in all of its tumult, energy, pain, and joy, seems far, far, away.

‘Tis the gift to be simple,

‘Tis the gift to be free.

‘Tis the gift to come down

Where we ought to be,

I sit on a rock by a still pond in the midst of a perfectly balanced natural system, one that is harsh and gentle, competitive and yielding, rigorous and forgiving, pragmatic and magical. A system so, so, violent and still capable of producing serenity. You would not have the one, the beauty, without the struggle of the other. Nature is immensely complex, more complex than the most advanced technology and requires a multitude of collaborative and interdependent initiatives for its residents to survive and prosper. All of this happens intuitively without doubt or hesitation. What seems to underlie nature is an incredible amplitude and abundance as though the plan were over-engineered, and unless man interferes, a remarkable re-generative capacity to carry-on, and on, and on.

Nature is anything but neat with constant spillage and what seems like error and waste, but what wins out in the end is this magnificently generous system yielding one gift after another.

And when we find ourselves

In the place just right

‘Twill be in the valley

Of love and delight.

Something startles the Heron. It awkwardly gathers up those long, spindly legs, and hesitates for a moment as though reluctant to let go of the intrigue of the pond’s muck and mud. The great bird lifts, huge wings cast a muted shadow on the water, and flying straight towards my rock gracefully swerves off to the right, disappearing among the tall pines along the shore.

These are gifts given to me, a still pond, a Heron, Monadnock Mountain, tall marsh grass, dunes overlooking South Beach, the immense, undulating sea beyond- all, all, valleys of delights.

When true simplicity

Is gain’d

To bow and to bend

We shan’t be asham’d

On my rock by the still pond the water mirrors nature but so much of my own world is reflected here as well. My world has many of these same characteristics, sadness, suffering, despair, chaos, in-equity and certainly violence. It also has the same capacity for re-generation, for hope, for beauty, for joy, and even peace and solace. But where the natural world knows what to do, and is driven, governed and balanced solely by instinct, my world is not intuitively balanced at all and constantly demands other more elusive elements, courage, patience, and especially will and love. Perhaps even more difficult, knowing what is right and good to do. Without will and love, without a sense of the just and the unjust, without confidence in ourselves, we are at risk, on the edge, ready to fall into a void or even worse spin completely out of control taking those we love with us.

To turn,

Turn will be our delight

Till by turning, turning,

We come round right.

My will is weak and tempered by what the philosopher calls natural shame from within, and moralshame from those who know me. I am often afraid, wracked with self-doubt, and not sure what is right and good. I want to love but that requires much courage, and a giving of myself fully while risking rejection. You see, both will and love are acts of selflessness, of generosity.

What do I seek, what do I yearn for?

I seek a rock by a still pond.

The evening is rapidly becoming night and all around is a softening of sound, wood and sky and I think of these lines about dusk--

There is evening and evening song

sun goes down and takes the light along

and at a certain moment difficult to define

day or night light or dark is hard to find

you see a milky misty shadowy fall

softly sending goodnight kisses to us all

I sit on my rock by the still pond and dream of "goodnight kisses" sent to us all, of "valleys of love and delight," of finding oneness of mind, spirit and self, of finding the will and the courage to love, to do the right thing, and I am filled with a powerful yearning to be the best that I can be, to do the work it takes to turn, to "come round right."

As I sit on my rock by a still pond, how clear it becomes. We are all nurtured by this generous world and we must in turn make it so. We must make it so!

‘Tis the gift to be simple,

‘Tis the gift to be free.

‘Tis the gift to come down

Where we want to be,

And when we find ourselves

In the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley

Of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d

We shan’t be asham’d,

To turn, turn will be our delight

‘Till by turning, turning we come right.

Fall 1997