this wild and precious life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver


Kano Motonobu - Zen Patriarch Xiangyen Zhixian Sweeping with a Broom


after decades of wondering what I’d be
when I grew up,
what I’d do when I found my ‘real’ work,
what I’d contribute to life that might be of worth,
I tossed the questions to the stars
and gave up

is this typical I wonder?
a symptom of seniorhood?
or does it eventually occur to everyone
that while life is unbearably precious
and untameably wild
it isn’t yours or mine nor ever was

so with hair gone silver and eyes a-twinkle,
I whisper to the beloved poet:
this wild and precious life was never mine to map;
it always had its own agenda, dancing itself
across infinite webs of thought and feeling,
back to its own vibrant womb

and the role it gave itself as miriam
was that of sweeper of the space,
one who clears the mind-droppings, ensuring
no concealment of that fierce Grace
shining, shining through the world’s sorrow and joy
(and the sweeper’s too)


And what will Life do I wonder, with its one wild and precious You?


Image: Kano Motonobu –  Zen Patriarch Xiangyen Zhixian Sweeping with a Broom (detail)
Muromachi period 1336-1868.  Ink and color on paper.


if you want to understand why you suffer you’ll need to want it a great deal


This morning, after so many sodden days wrapped in mist, the mountain emerges under the gaze of the great Shining.

A verdant world is revealed.  Greens of every radiant tone, still heavily wet, sigh under skies of powder blue.  The grass, dotted with little red mounds of ant-work, is alive with leaping jumping whirling insect life, and seven fat guinea-fowl are busy breakfasting.

The cottage is named Bliss.


We really don’t have a clue what we do.  Life acts and we assume responsibility – praise, blame, satisfaction, regret, guilt.  If you still imagine that you ‘know’ what you do, that you drive your Lifeboat, no doubt you’ll still be suffering one way or another.

If you want to understand why you suffer you’ll need to want it a great deal, for it will take all your powers of choiceless observation.  That involves patience.  It means being able to endure not being sure of anything.  It means no conclusions.

If you can bear to look for yourself at all the ways you sabotage the truth of your non-existence, you’ll understand the root of suffering.


“ happens”


The dusty burgundy station wagon with yellow rego plates was in front of me at the lights.

As we waited for green, the sticker on its rear window jumped into view:

Someone (in my view a fairly wideawake someone) had scratched out the first two letters of the original phrase so that it read:


Reminders of this savage wisdom peek forth from the most unexpected spots…


self-satisfaction is unsatisfactory


self-satisfaction is unsatisfactory

my current state,
physical as well as mental,
is the natural outcome of my efforts
to satisfy my self

those efforts, encouraged by my
nearest and dearest, and fostered by
a culture of self-satisfaction
have driven me to distraction, to
discontent, and into depression

it ends
but not through any act of will

it ends because
some kind of intelligence sees
that to continue is wholly
illogical and unintelligent

how can a self that has never
had solid existence
ever be satisfied?

it ends of its own accord