By Ty H Phillips
I open the window to a warm breeze from the west; bird song bursts through the wind-kissed sill.
I take a deep breath and pick up the scent of grass breaking through the melting snow. I am elated at the thought of spring and know that soon I will be placing foot on wooded paths and the stag and the naga will once again greet me.
I dance away from the present moment and get caught up in visions of my daughter’s feet sinking into the spring moss as she giggles with delight. We will, of course, be on the hunt for the ever elusive Bigfoot that wanders the forests around our home (thousands of acres of preserved land called the Emerald Necklace).
She will eventually tire and ask me to carry her. I will swoop her up in one motion and bring her down riding high on my shoulders. As we continue or march, taking breaks in order to take pictures of budding and creeping things, she will run her fingers through the branches we pass. Unfallen leaves will land on me and she will pick them off and laugh.
Spring holds a special place for us both.
It is not only a time of rebirth, but a constant renewal of my ordination and the hikes we take each year, discovering new things in nature and ourselves. She will ask questions, I will give answers and in reflection I will write about our adventures and find hidden within, stories and correlations to the Buddha’s teachings.
I will find myself breaking out of my winter hibernation, when my mind slows and my practice falters, to a renewed sense of depth and study.
Words will flow, practice will deepen, our hikes will grow longer and more filled with adventure, and we will discover over and over the wonder of each passing moment.
As the breeze passes over me again, I am brought back to the present. My daydream over now, a familiar voice greets me—my blind nun, friend. “Ty,” she says, “I have another question about the Buddha.” I sit back and smile. It’s as if the world knows my hard crusty shell is falling off and presents me with an opportunity.
She asks me to tell her the story of how the Buddha came to be the Buddha.
I sit up straight, take a deep breath and begin to tell her the traditional story about his birth, the prophecy around it, his upbringing, his renunciation, his trials and asceticism, his liberation and awakening as the Buddha. As I speak I notice a growing crowd around my desk. The residents’ curiosity piqued, and the nurses and staff possibly shocked that I am “preaching” so to speak.
I finish the story and sigh, laughing a little. “Did that answer your question?” I ask. I see eyes and smiles from all directions and the Sister, without sight, looks right at me and says, “That was beautiful. I felt like I was lost in your words.” “May I come back again for another story?” Others chime in, me too, me too.
I sit smiling, hearing the birds once more, feeling the breeze once more and know, that even though I am not in the presence of the naga, the blessing is still there.
Editor: Dana Gornall