Conduct and observance

Saturday, December 16, 2006

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Signs of spring

It's unnaturally warm for December. Many plants around our house are still green; the winter jasmine is blooming, adding a touch of yellow that echoes the forsythia riots of the spring.

Skunk cabbge is one of the earliest plants of springtime here in the Hudson valley. It begins to send its green shoots up while snow is still on the ground, melting holes in the frozen layer above it so that it can reach the sun.

If you crush skunk cabbge it smells bad- hence the name. But left alone it exudes not stench, but beauty. Its green leaves speak to me of abundance and proliferation.

Skunk cabbage gets going early. It looks for the sun even though conditions around it are tough. While the rest of the plant world is still drowsy, trying to recover from the various insults of winter, it's up and around, spreading gorgeous early swaths of green in damp, sulphurous places where water pools up and leaves rot. Places that other plants find it difficult to root in. There's a kind of courage and optimism in its lifestyle.

Life is like that: taking root everywhere- no matter how tough conditions may be. For example, this week marine biologists discovered the mariana arc tonguefish- a fish that lives near volcanic vents in the ocean floor. This little critter is so tough it that can pause for a two minute rest on a pool of molten sulphur that's 355 degrees farenheit! Seems impossible- yet there it is. (read more at

Skunk cabbges and tonguefish. Pretty different organisms, but they have this much in common: they accept what appear to us to be very difficult conditions- uncondtionally. They adapt to them and make a living. That's a lesson I could afford to learn from.

There's anothing thing about skunk cabbage. It remind me of what grasping does to things.

When I grasp this life of mine too tightly I crush it, and it releases the same kind of inner stench. The smell is pretty powerful and so it's all I think about it: life stinks. There's my negativity in a nutshell: a bad smell that arises from my insistence on using my force inappropriately, by holding onto everything I think I want too tightly.

If I leave life alone, am less identified, less attached- it sings.

It's within the slow appreciation of each moment that beauty begins to to emerge from my frozen coating of indifference, lack of relationship. The ice thaws. The water, air, and sunlight of daily life become my food, my daily bread.

So. How to let this water of life flow in? How can I become, inside, as adaptable as life itself?

Today's another day to give it a shot. With a little luck, and a bit pf practice, maybe I'll put a bit of green in front of the sun... instead of releasing more bad odors.

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