Songs of the Mountain Hermit

mountain man


Foothills for shoes, clear blue sky for a cap,
crisp empty air my cloak, honeyed sunlight
the shine my smile makes on wet grass –
who can say I lack for anything?

With gratitude my constant garland,
new birds’ nests my shoulder epaulets,
rapturous scent of lilacs and lavender
perfuming my heart-strewn path –
what do I have to protect or defend?


Clustered snug in mossy shallows,
filmy egg sacs ripe with tadpoles
incubate a destiny of dream-like worlds
afloat beyond the ken of frogs or men.

I just might laze around this magic pond all day!

With this heart a bursting bubble of joy,
what need for artifice have I?

Red dragonflies swoop low to play,
winged buddhas humming sermons
that words just can’t convey.

I hum along, we sing ourselves –
there is no disagreement.


Aimlessly wandering
through diamond fields
of emerging starlight at dusk,
I span the celestial playgrounds –

one seamless smile widening
into the heart of fathomless space,
echo of thunder before going under,
all fear dissolving, laughter erupting,

“Alive, alive” I say!

There I’ll sway by the light of the moon,
arms hugging my sides for some warmth,
my unreasonable laughter echoing through
rock canyons like a flock of partying peacocks,
drunk and destined for a sober-less night of love.


Those somber rice-eaters
downhill in the meditation hall
sit and fidget astride soft cushions,
mostly meditating on their next meal.

A sweet and savory morsel
reclining on a bed of cloud pastry,
I’ve become a meal for a mountain,
seasoned with the spice of attention,
simmered in a salty broth of surrender,
served warm on a platter of sunshine.

Here, Friends:
have a taste of my heart –

if you don’t open wide,
you’ll miss the best part!


I’ve heard all the thoughtful talk
about life’s purpose and meaning –
just never took it too seriously.

Purposeless, I ramble on through
mountain meadows while meaning,
that mewling straggler, struggles
to catch up with me.

It hops along on one ragged foot,
while mine barely touch the ground.

Listen, you old mountain:

not one wise word today
about emptiness or impermanence —

not when these splendid wildflowers
run giddy riot up and down your hillsides!


Memories dissolve like cowering mists
pierced through and through by morning sunlight,
yet I am not naive enough to imagine that they won’t
return to climb the spine of my sentiment and linger
here at dusk, tenacious shades I’ll bear to the cave
of my heart, there to be tenderly consigned to a fire
I’ve lit for them to disappear in once again.

Only then will the clarity of moonlight
reveal the hidden secret memory can’t bear:

I have no past, I never did –
this skull is a bowl of moonshine.


The breezy spree of late-afternoon winds
swirling in play among the high pines
transmits a fragrance of fresh apples,
royal offerings flamed in crimson,
ripe from valley orchards below.

Gratitude for no-distance!

Now I’m a rouged sunset sky of feeling,
an open-billowing bliss, illumined
with the poignant shine of this
ever-arriving moment –

a wind song of apple light settling,
its lingering perfume lifting my smallness
into the everything-everywhere, senses keen
to apple worship in orchards of falling night.


Fascinated by itself, the drama,
depth, and direction of itself, it has
luxuriated in the infinite shades of itself,
yet unable to substantiate itself, at last retreats
to its own core, as the Maple’s sap does in fall.

How its leaves flush with color before
submitting to the romance of the breeze,
a ravishing angel, impersonally adorned,
autumnal compassion with no condition!

There is no dead weight in this
surrender, no reluctance, no resistance.

Still, at the root, the tree will cling
tenaciously to earth, like a child
to its parent, and not let go.

This season’s work is at the root –
that’s where the story began.


No longer anxious to fall for that
old trick of attainment, I now freely
squander my time, doting on the way
these luxuriant summer grasses, gaily
gathered in the arms of the billowing
breeze, bend to gently blend like
glad willing lovers immersed
in the act of perfect love.


At the break of dawn I kneel
to wash my eyes and mouth
in fresh cool mountain brooks.

In the evening I sit on a warm rock
by the stream and listen to water
tell tales without end.

Some smart fellow once said,
”No eyes, no ears, no mouth . . .”

Later he entered a mountain stream
and hasn’t stopped babbling since.

These days, I no longer remember
why I first sat down against this cliff.

If the mountain doesn’t care,
why should I?

The best advice I was ever given:
“Find out for yourself.”

How was I to suspect at the time,
that could also be called the best joke!


The folks of the world aren’t different from me
except that they all have things they must do.

I was a lot like that once too, back when
I imagined I had something to do.

How about you –
what do you have to do?

Without your doing, somehow you were born.
Without your doing, each thought takes form.
Without your doing, the body keeps breathing.

Regardless of any fine notions of doing or not,
when it’s time for your body to stop, it will stop.


How crisp this mountain air!

I’m lived as plainly as the air I share
the mountain sky with, share
the lack of any why with —

chin-deep in chill, I am
whatever thrills me!


Everything is learning
to disappear –

what’s left when all is gone,
some may call “The Teaching”.


How can one attempt to find it,
if they don’t know what they seek?

Freedom finds itself.

One may advance to its threshold,
but what passes through the open gate
is not what stood before it once,
hoping to gain entrance.

Life moves as freely as it will,
plants vineyards, crushes the grapes,
then drinks the ruby wine of them —
our dreams and fears go too.

Don’t fall for myths of personal continuity,
don’t pledge your allegiance to phantoms.

Why substantiate a whisper of shadows,
all the while postponing, resisting this innate
presence waiting patiently to reveal itself?

What awakens to itself in ways
both mysterious and true, is the simple
recognition of the innocence we’ve always been.

One bright shout of our own light
clears the sky of doubtful mind.

Trust in it and have no fear —
it will outshine you too.


Lone flute in a distant canyon,
suddenly I am heart-broken.

Have all my efforts
come to this — these tears?


If you try to grab hold of it,
it will playfully evade you.

If you let it take you,
it will become you, the life
of your life, your living water.

The stream will meander on,
going its natural way –

no one knows how that will flow,
yet, rather than a fearful thing,
this is the heart’s delight.

How wonderful to course
freely on, splashing along the banks
where the tall green grasses sway all day
in their play with the stream-borne breezes!


Above the temple, a scythe of moon
is harvesting fields of stars while
everyone shrugs and snores.

From my window, I see light leaping
from lotus to lotus, dancing across
the pond in firefly glee, expounding
the one and only true teaching.

How can anyone ignore
such eloquence?


Intermittent freezing drizzle
shrouds a light-torn sky.

Dreaming in the rock cave corner,
a lazy dog slumbers while this
old good-for-nothing smokes
the pipe of evanescence.

Tonight the buddhas have vanished,
yet in the dark a lone wolf’s howl
still expresses miraculous power.

Drifting in the restless wind,
some swirling flakes of snow agree.


Blue belly warming
on black granite rock –

yellow-eyed cat crouching,
a skittering of lizard feet.

Everything gets what it needs.
Only remember, belief is a thief.

Have nothing to steal.


Draped in a luminous memory of star-shine,
the night returns, remembers itself all over
again, exactly as I recall myself, embraced
by this lit vastness, opening to that same
vastness shining within, welcoming all
as a quicksilver memory of myself –

this self-forgetting, once feared, now
lavishly bright with impersonal
truth, forgetting that too –

only the night remains.


Recognizing the false as false,
or welcoming the true —

two arrows passing in mid-air,
both shot from the same bow.

Which way to the target?
Already too late!


Awakening to light’s
spilling morning invitation,
lone magnolia’s crimson blossoms,
starkly framed by cave mouth opening,
erupt in riotous syncopation, dewy ecstasy,
golden dawn’s first bliss kiss smeared
across the sky’s blushing cheek,
awaiting my next move.


How many lives have I exhausted
roaming through nights like tonight —

a wandering ghost sitting in the burnt-out
shell of a phantom temple, heart-eyes
tuned to moonlit views, palms open,
receptive, then realizing that I have
arrived back where I began:

in a dream, a dream
of moonshine


Fog lifting, winter’s
dreaming done –

this mountain is
just a mountain, after all.



About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have several other sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: Essays on the Conscious Process: Poetry and Prosetry: Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: Thank You!
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One Response to Songs of the Mountain Hermit

  1. Bob OHearn says:

    Mazie and I moved to the northern California Cascades in 2003 and built a cabin there amidst 5 acres of old growth Redwood trees. We documented some of that, and photos can be found in our photography album on Pbase:

    While there, we also undertook a joint literary effort, which we named “The Missing 300 Poems of Han Shan”. For those unfamiliar, Han Shan was a legendary Chan (Zen) Taoist recluse who lived on Cold Mountain during the Tang Dynasty. It is said that he wrote 600 poems, but only 300 are still in existence (given that some were written on bark, stones, and water), so we took the liberty of imagining the ones missing. 😉

    Some of those poems later made their way in one form or another to my WordPress poetry blog here (as some of the ones Mazie wrote also made their way to her blog). Recently, I reviewed some of the original text, and chose a sample of 24 previously unblogged to include in the above series.

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