Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reflections on the lake.

Brush and ink practice

     “Today”means boundless and inexhaustible eternity. Periods of months and years and of time in general are ideas of men who calculate by number; but the true name of eternity is Today.
Philo ( c. 20 BCE – 50 CE )
from 'The Enlightened Mind'. ed. Stephen Mitchell

I stand at the edge of Stowell Lake in a gentle rain. On the calm surface, the lake is divided into two reflections; close to my feet, the water reflects the grey overcast sky and further out, the darker reflection stretches towards me from the tall firs on the opposite shore. The rain falls evenly, but in the dark parts the myriad ripples formed as drops hit the water are a white, flickering vibration, while in the sky reflection, closer to shore, the drops form partial dark circles. Only because I stop to watch intently can I see this complex patterning constantly forming, fading, and being renewed.

At the far side of the lake a duck circles, loses height and splashes down, while somewhere off to my right, another squawks, leaps into the air and flies rapidly away to disappear among the misty tree tops.

I step towards some willows that overhang the water and see their bare winter sticks reflected below. The heavy drips that fall from the branches create longer lasting, expanding circles, making complex black and white designs. Soon a larger band of ripples arrives; the energy of that duck's leap into the air has been transformed into little wavelets that have been travelling for the last two minutes until they come into view. A dull wet day at the lake would be the usual evaluation of this moment if I were simply absorbed in my own human thoughts.

And yet, so much depends, as I stand beside the lake on this winter day, on taking time and tuning in. The raindrop patterns could simply have been ignored. The gliding flight of the dark bird, how it held its wings stiffly, tilted and side slipped to a landing and the sound of the other duck calling, the whir of wings, the splash as she became instantly airborne, her appearance within my vision and rapid exit stage left, could have been missed if my mind was turned away. Those dark willow reflections and the ripples from water drops sliding off overhanging branches, the identifying of the origin of the broader band of ripples that arrived from stage right, could have been lost in the chatter of personal thoughts.

I am part of this scene too, my actions, my thoughts, are as much a part of reality as the ducks and water; my careful observation a part of the whole. Through a raven's eyes, circling high above, my dark figure standing on the shore below in the rain is simply a part of the larger picture. The lake water is cupped in a fold of landscape, beyond which lies misty Fulford Harbour, an arm of the ocean. The ocean itself is part of a thin envelope of atmosphere that clings to the rocky skin of the planet. I experience rain on this lake today, but stand on a greater shore.

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