Here Now. I make my bed. I’ve slept diagonally again, and pull off the blankets and sheets to straighten them all. The squeak of my weight on the ladder from the loft is the only sound. I open the shrine while the water works on its slow boil. I fill the seven bowls with water from a jug, careful not to spill as I let the water rise all the way to the top. This is an offering, even if it’s more work it’s better not to be stingy. I arrange them near the front edge of glass, the edge where the glass angles downward. Between them I leave only enough space for a grain of rice. I don’t know if this is really how it’s supposed to be done, but I remember one time my friend Seth said that’s what he heard. I miss him this morning, living now in Boston and rarely visiting. He’s the sangha in my heart. He also told me that taking Refuge everyday changed his life, and even though he and I took the vow during the same ceremony some years ago, I’ve never done the Refuge practice daily. But I’m doing here, now, at this little cabin in the woods. The kettle is too full and boils over, the lid loose from the pressure, water rushing out of an artery in pulses, spilling between the counter and the mini-fridge, pooling on the red marmoleum floor, under the electric skillet. I move the fridge, wipe the counter, the floor. Pour hot water into the coffee grounds and watch it bloom, then fill the press. Wait 2 minutes, stir with a butter knife and wipe it clean with the wet paper towels I used to dry the counters, and slide it back into the drawer. Pour myself coffee and forget that I brought cream. Light the candles, then the incense. I pay Homage, then take Refuge.
I come back to the small table and sit down at my computer. The rooster from a nearby farm is having a moment. He settles down and the chickadees, impossibly small, arrive on the north side of my cabin. One hits the window, twice. I watch the others as they try to get under the eaves. I remember the little wren that slept inside the rolled up window shade that hung on the outside of my old living room picture room, the winter I was pregnant.
Last night as I was out walking, I noticed that when I look up the sky as the sun is setting, or as it is rising, or really at anytime at all, I cannot help but be overtaken with awe, with a sense of god that has no definition. I reminded myself that it’s okay to ask for blessings. Later, I sat with the chapters of my book arranged in a line, trying to make sense of the order, of what to write next. I knew that it was time to write the hardest scene, the scene where my son is born in a place I didn’t expect to be with a room full of people and implements…. I asked no one in particular for a way in. I went to bed.
Here, now. I woke up and tended what needed tending – the bed, the water, the shrine. I paid homage to my spiritual lineage, took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, and I did both of these things out loud. I drank hot dark coffee. And the little birds outside my cabin brought me back to that winter wren, which is where the scene of my son’s birth begins.