Of Ducks and Dudes

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    Recently I came upon the construction of a bicycle course adjacent to the creek that runs along the edge of town, behind the sycamore where I often take my sittings. When I arrived that morning, a group of boys all fled on their bikes like a flock of birds.

    I was dismayed at the construction so near a prime place of meditation. But I took my seat and began observing, without and within, until the observer ended and there was no separation between outside and inside. (This spontaneous mini-breakthrough marks the beginning of meditation to my mind.)

    Just as I finished my sitting, in a meditative state, the boys returned, and I went over to talk with them. I asked how many hours of work they’d put in so far, and what their plans were.

    They had laboriously uprooted a sizable area of nasty, non-native star thistle, and made a bike jump out of dirt and clay. Compacting the earth into a formidable structure over a meter high, it resembled a mini-Mayan temple. They had also cut a wide and already well-traveled path down to the creek directly behind the sycamore, in order to obtain water for their project.

    Of the half dozen who returned, two stood out right away–a 15-year old Hispanic boy who had the self-possession and confidence of a young man; and a 22-year old young man who had the demeanor and aspect of a boy.

    Their ringleader, the 22-year old, outlined ambitious plans for an entire bicycle course along the creek, with five or six jumps like the one they had just completed. (He had recently moved here from downstate, and I couldn’t see what his purpose was.)

    That won’t do, I said flatly, as diplomatically as I could. Admirable as such a group project was, it will bring every cyclist in town to this spot, and ruin it for meditation. The 15-year old said they wanted the place for themselves, and hadn’t considered that it would draw a lot of other cyclists.

    Surprisingly, he then asked, “Is it a good place to meditate?” I was tempted to say that it had been, but simply said ‘yes, it is.’ As I held his gaze, I added, ‘maybe I’ll teach you sometime.’

    I took the cell number of the ringleader, and the construction project stopped there. Since then I’ve seen different boys with their bikes gathered in the clearing they made.

    No doubt they mainly wanted a place of their own, where they could meet and hang out, just as I sought a place of my own, where I could commune with nature and meditate. Could the two activities co-exist? Yes, with mutual respect and an implicit recognition that it’s first a place of meditation.

    I sometimes have the feeling that when a human being repeatedly awakens a meditative state at a given spot, it consecrates the place. It isn’t personal; on the contrary, meditation only ignites when the personal completely recedes, and silence is supreme.

    The human brain is the only brain on this planet capable of conscious awareness and relationship with mind. The paradox is that the mind-as-thought has to completely yield and be still for the inseparable cosmic mind to be felt.

    I rode my bike out to the creek after sunset a few days later, when the gloaming time had begun. The earth and the heavens seem to stand still in the fading light, and the land held an ineffable reverence.

    There were virtually no sounds, and few signs of man or boys. The sky was completely clear, and as the light faded, a hush descended–the amplified presence of nature echoing the compacted sorrow of man.

    Suddenly there was a honking in the distance. Canadian geese, aristocrats of the avian world in this hemisphere, have already begun their migration south! Portly black and white ducks, they pair bond for life, and still thrive in North America despite being hunted mercilessly in the past.

    It was almost a month early in their migration. I listened and watched as two groups passed over in the dimming blue–a noisy and numerous V-shaped lead group, and a single-file of stragglers, making hardly a sound, grudgingly following the dominant ducks with their inscrutable ways.

    Our star bathes the earth with the infinitely patient light of creation, giving man as much time and space as the earth will allow for us to change our increasingly fragmented course.

    The human crisis doesn’t reside in any particular people or nation. It isn’t a matter of region or religion, and won’t be resolved for any population without resolving for the whole.

    Martin LeFevre

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