Christmas with Chödrön XI

 

Chödrön: “There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly…Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment” (Selection 93: The Wisdom of No Escape, 25)

 

While on a contemplative retreat in southern Oregon, I began to understand and appreciate the telos of a strawberry, while eating breakfast in prayerful silence with my fellow friends and contemplatives. I was moved to write the following…

My lover says, “Close your eyes and I will put a piece of food to your mouth. Feel its cold wetness on your lips, wrap your lips around it and chew. Let the fresh sweetness explode against your tongue and gums. Now guess. As you swallow, tell me, is it a strawberry? a piece of pineapple, a bite of banana, a slice of melon? a spoonful of maple pecan granola?”

And after each taste, my Lord asks, “Did you like it? Did you like it? I made it for you. I knew you would eat it even when the farmer planted it and the workers, who worked up a sweat under my ferocious sun, picked it and the trucker shipped it and the grocer displayed it and the server cleaned it, cut it and prepared it. I’ve been looking forward to the day that you would eat it, that it would fulfill its purpose to strengthen and refresh your body. Did you like it?”

After each taste, my lover said this. After each taste, my lover said this.

“Where I live on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, I see that the wilder the weather is, the more the ravens love it. They have the time of their lives in the winter, when the wind gets much stronger and there’s lots of ice and snow. They challenge the wind. They get up on the tops of the trees and they hold on with their claws and then they grab on with their beaks as well. At some point they just let go into the wind and let it blow them away. Then they play on it, they float on it. After a while, they’ll go back to the tree and start over. It’s a game…The animals and plants on Cape Breton are hardy and fearless and playful and joyful; the elements have strengthened  them. In order to exist there, they have had to develop a zest for challenge and for life. As you can see, it adds up to tremendous beauty and inspiration and uplifted feeling. The same goes for us.” (Selection 95: The Wisdom of No Escape, 54)

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