Scribbling on Water

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.
Judgments bought me an urn of stone,
impermanence filled it with ashes.
From a ledge on the edge of this world
I poured out into the impersonal wind.
Shadows of clouds swept over the cliffs,
a lone flute’s sound fell into the void.
If you want to change, if you want to serve,
bow down at the feet of all you’ve slurred.
Crack open that cold rock jar and weep,
let your heart speak, let your tears be
solvent to that hard crust of pride,
revealing a love which can’t be
resisted and won’t be denied!
What gives
is what receives;
what receives, gives.
is exchanged.
is a cunning thief.
A word to the wise:
have nothing to steal.
What care have I for others’ words,
judgments, or expectations?
There are so many ways this life can play,
it confounds the gods’ imagination!
In the morning I bathe in a clear cool stream.
The remains of the day — too full to say!
At night I rock amidst the stars,
a lover in the arms of the beloved.
Nothing is waiting to be affirmed,
yet nothing arises to be refused.
Free of distraction, I’m unbound
by all of those petty man-made rules.
Behold, I sport amidst the flashing forms
of light and shadow, sound and utter silence!
Yelp of a baby fresh from the womb,
heartbeat identical to the throb of infinity —
throughout all creation its secret remains
hidden, yet it is never out of view.
In realms of darkness it abides as light.
In realms of light it abides as darkness.
Primordial peace, ocean of grace, essence
inexhaustible – who can describe it?
When I offer these words to the fire, the smoke
will rise and wreath this sacred mountain,
just as this mountain now wreathes me.
For each and every one of us there is
a true way – no need to imitate anyone else.
The easy path for each goes in the same
direction one’s heart unswervingly follows –
what’s truly most appealing to us
requires no stress and strain at all!
Effort can obscure the way,
yet so can effort’s lack.
When in doubt, just walk on.
Nothing real can long be hidden.
If we ourselves are the destination,
why worry our minds about delays?
There is a string of lovely pearls
the adepts have called “life after life”.
Each one is a unique miracle, draped
like radiant suns around the throat
of a blissful Buddha, appearing
in the imaginatively creative
form of our own self.
Likewise, life after life,
our own perfect way
shines bright before us.
Each traveler journeys
at their own perfect speed,
neither hurrying nor tarrying.
Whatever way we go is right for us —
without the slightest deviation, each path
in time returns the one who walks it home.
Visions of luminous grandeur
that thrilled my heart today are now
fast consumed by tonight’s chilling mists.
Stinging airborne water curtains obscure
the once-bright stage, leaving this
cold-soaked audience of one
to soberly sit and ponder
the play of changes —
yet like a lunatic
I rock back and forth,
arms hugging my sides to
keep from freezing, unaccountable
laughter echoing through rock canyons
like a flock of partying peacocks, drunk and
calling, destined for a sober-less night of love.
Memories dissolve like cowering
mists pierced through and through by
Manjusri’s sword of morning sunlight.
Still, I am not naive enough to imagine
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.
Every place is my favorite place
along this mountain stream.
When every place is perfect,
how can there be any regrets?
Wherever I am
is the right place to be –
what could be easier than that?
When I enter the stream,
I become the stream.
When I become the stream,
I forget the stream.
Water forgets itself in me.
I forget myself in water.
Water needn’t search for itself
when all there is, is water.
I’m not here to explain —
I’m here to praise.
Sometimes an explanation
can be a form of praise.
Just so, I offer
the following explanation:
there is nothing to explain.
There have been enough
explanations, not enough praise.
Our amazing feat of embodiment
needs no explanation.
The very act of appearing at all
is reason enough for praise!
Whatever can be gained
can also be lost.
Come spring, a thousand streams
cascade down sloping mountains.
In the fall, ten thousand trees
shed fading golden leaves.
After all, whichever way we turn,
what has been gained, what lost?
What do we long for most of all,
when autumn leaves begin to fall?
Like salty tears wept into the sea,
one dream melts into the next –
nothing remains hidden,
though nothing is revealed.
Awake in the dream, writing
in the air, I feed the wind
whatever still stings.
What clings is where
the real practice is, that is
if I honestly want the truth.
It won’t be found in the myths
of personal continuity, those stories
requiring an allegiance to phantoms,
as if to add some density to shadows,
all the while postponing, resisting
the presence waiting patiently
to reveal itself as the truth
nobody wants to hear.
Open your mouth
and try to say it,
see if your tongue
will move.
Everything is
cause for anything,
all is one with its effect.
With each step a fresh wind rises
as I tread alone through dusk-pink sky,
every direction home, every path the way.
For untold years I’ve sung these songs
of moon and water, mist and snow,
yet if you ask me what I know,
I’ll laugh and walk away –
the moon is rising full tonight,
that’s all I’ll have to say.
Imagine the ingenuity of mind,
reaching into itself to conjure up
some light with which to cast these
carnival masks and fleetingly familiar
shapes we playfully try on for fit, yet
behind each disguise is the waiting
surprise — there’s nobody there
but the air, Friends, there’s
nobody there but air.
A season of clouds and rain —
water beings emerge and dissolve,
while water in essence remains
itself, eternally the same.
Neither awake nor asleep,
water modifies itself as every
form with neither effort nor intent.
Devoid of any inherent distinction,
water flows, splashes, and divides,
yet persists at rest within its
own sufficient unity.
I am nothing but a jar of water —
once the container of time breaks open,
water will flood naturally back into itself.
Every water molecule will rejoice!
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 a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: Essays on the Conscious Process: Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: Verses and ramblings on life as it is: Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: Verses on the Play of Consciousness: Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: Poems of the Mountain Hermit: Love Poems from The Book of Yes: Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: Thank You!
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One Response to Scribbling on Water

  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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