Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Building a Lasting Path

Good Grief!

This latest dire crisis on Wall Street, coupled with news from Nicaragua of serious hunger when I have no money to send, has had me spinning since last Thursday: my diet has crashed for the moment on a tidal wave of comfort food and wine. This is not good, for me or for America or Nicaragua, so yesterday, while Congress made it clear that our current President should head for his pasture full of gooey cow pies, I decided to take myself in hand and "Do Something" that would last. My favorite cut on the new Eagles album, Long Road Out of Eden (2007), "Do Something" hits me deeply in my contemplative-activist's heart: the Obama campaign, so intent on pushing grassroots activism for change, might consider adopting it as its theme song; it surely gets me out of my rocking chair.

Of course, then I had to decide what to do. That "lasting" bit made the choosing complicated, since, philosophically, I know that nothing lasts but change. Even philosophers, though, need roots in the soil of "doing," so I amended my quest to "building something that would last a reasonably long time"; that expanded my possibilities and established some limits, as well.

It eliminated the first task that popped up--That I should butter-fry up a mess of Velveeta Cheese and Mayonnaise sandwiches (a comfort food holdover from the 50's, absolutely taboo-poison in my current life style, except maybe when the Market's crashing). I instantly eliminated that because those grilled cheeses wouldn't've lasted ten minutes before being stuffed down my gullet, slathered with catsup, never mind the guilt. Nix on that.

What else in my current life had potential for reasonably long-lasting creation? I could work on my novel, Safehavens, or post on one of my blogs or write a poem or paint a picture, all things of notable longevity, but, after even thinking of all that toasty Velveeta, I figured I should move my body in this enterprise as well. Move it, move it, move it . . . BINGO!

The gravel path through the Wild Garden! I'd put it off for a month: Now, I'd do it. I'd plot it, edge it with small rock to hold the grass cloth down, then pour pails of gravel, one by one, over the cloth: a lasting path through the wilderness, designed to add a tension with its man-made-order, midst the wild grasses, willows, weeds, and the whispering of Cattle Creek. BINGO! While my world looked majorly awry on Monday morning, I'd mindfully focus on building a path.


Of course it might've been better if my work had sent food or money to Northern Nicaragua, but there's only so much I can do. I work in a artist's garden in exchange for pieces of her art. I did decide, though, that I'd make this path-building a walking meditation, a prayer for the poor of Teote.

And that's how it turned out, as each pail of gravel travelled down a slope to the garden, step-by-step, to cover another square foot of path. The work moved very sweetly: Cattle Creek gurgled and bubbled and sighed as the path slowly lengthened; I felt a minute-by-minute release of angst and terror and guilt, and a calm delight replaced my worry for my south-of-the-border family. The woes of the Stock Market disappeared. When a rock proved unmoveable, I wound the path around it, creating an island in the thin river of stone.

By quitting time, the gravel path was done and I felt whole and holy. My friend was in bliss. That charmed path had made the garden! Perhaps, as many claim, my working prayer had blessed the larger world as well. I felt like a monk in a Kyoto Temple garden, making order out of chaos with a rake, and, in truth, the ego has no place in successful design. Would that the economic planners in Congress had had that kind of focus, yesterday! Maybe they should all start building solid gravel pathways across the utter wildness of the White House lawn?

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