2001-09-24 16:10:20 (UTC)


Continued from previous entry PRELUDE TO ENLIGHTENMENT, 09-11-01

One morning I parked my car in the driveway in order to
work on the wood for the umpteenth trillionth time when I
noticed the man next door had stopped to look at the wagon.
In a mellow, almost Shakespearean voice he told me how
beautiful he thought the wood was and how he admired my
endeavors to keep it so. He asked if it would be all right
to touch the wood and as I nodded in approval, he ran his
fingers softly over the surface in such a strange and
exacting manner that he and the wood seemed as one. No
racehorse trainer could have stroked or curried a prize
thoroughbred in a more loving way. When we made eye contact
for the first time I was set aback, almost stunned, by the
overwhelming calmness and serenity that seemed to abide in
his presence. Never had I experienced anything like it. He
thanked me, smiled, and tipping his hat, nodded slightly
and strode off.

Several days passed when one day just after sunrise the man
next door appeared on our back porch and asked my
grandmother if he might speak with me. He told me several
rooms in his house were paneled in floor-to-ceiling knotty
pine he intended to refinish and wondered if he might hire
me to help him with the job. The feeling of serenity that
seemed so captivating the first time we met faded as my
mind shot forward to the overwhelming prospect of earning
handfuls of money to blow on my car, buddies, girls, and
good times.

My grandmother, after assuring herself that the man was not
stranger than my youthful naivete might realize, gave
approval for me to work for him. It turned out to be a
wonderful summer, not because of the bucks or good times,
but because of the insight, knowledge, and intoxicating
sense of oneness the man-next-door seemed to possess. At
first the man spoke little, listening mostly to my small
talk and chit-chat, but as the summer wore on the subjects
began to wax philosophical, eventually through him, turning
to the Universe and man's place in the scheme of
things...when and why, where and how, space and time...all
of which was fairly heady stuff for a guy whose primary
concern up to that time had been how large the size of a
girl's chest was. In a peculiar, general sort of way he
seemed to know everything about everything, and as we
sanded, worked, reworked, and painted the wood, he talked
and I listened. The most elaborate subjects were always
described in the most graphic, mind-visual metaphors
somehow easily understood on my level of comprehension. His
inner soul seemed to breath and undulate with an
understanding that penetrated my brain, painting my mind in
brilliant splotches of color, running thick with an embryo
of knowledge and dripping heavy with meaning...all done
with the quiet flair of a person whose thirst had long been
quenched and whose only real want, if there even was a
want, was to occasionally sip now and then when the need

Toward the end of summer, several hours after we stopped
work for the day, I discovered I had left my wallet at the
man's house. I jumped the fence between the yards and
bounded up the steps to the porch and through the door
still open from the day's work. The man was sitting on a
mat on the otherwise bare living room floor naked, that is,
stark naked, in the soft twilight of the setting sun,
crosslegged, Buddha-style, in front of a burning candle or
incense. He seemed as if in a trance and made no conscious
effort to recognize my presence. I quietly retrieved my
wallet and left.

The next day, for the first time, I was reluctant to go to
work. Arriving late, several hours passed with little
conversation. I felt uncomfortable in the stunted quiet,
like a kid who without anyone knowing it, had stumbled
across his sister or mother in bed with his favorite uncle
and didn't know how to handle the information.

Mid morning came and went. Finally he motioned for a break.
Mixing two ice teas, he handed me one, and putting his hand
on my shoulder guided me outside to the porch where we sat
in the shade on the cement floor, leaning our backs against
the dusty white clapboard wall. His house was on the
downside of the crest of a hill, somewhat higher than the
surrounding area before us so the level of his porch was
actually higher than the rooftops of the single dwelling
houses across the street. From our vantage point we could
see the whole basin outlined by the distant mountains to
the north as they fingered their way downward toward the
west where they intersected with the deep blue horizon of
the Pacific and that of the cloudless pale blue sky. For
the first time he spoke of himself.

To be continued...

NOTE: For those who may have an interest, futher writings
and offerings by the Wanderling regarding Zen and
Enlightenment may be found by going to the Google search
engine and typing in the word wanderling.