chopping wood
By Debbie Lynn

I read Andrew Peers’ article “A Taste of the Stick: My Experience in a Japanese Temple” and was completely inspired.

It took me back to my childhood, listening to my father recount his life, his father’s life and “the way it was.”

A hierarchy was never questioned. Chopping wood was done, sweeping was done and there wasn’t even a thought about how the day would play out. My father spent many years laboring, hard labor alone in the woods as a lumberjack.

His father spent many years alone taking care of the necessary duties to keep the family fed and clothed. Work was work. That is all – nothing out of the ordinary, a way of life and a way to receive life lessons.

Authority was never questioned.

It was respected and revered—and having “more” was only a pipe dream so dreaming was vivid, alive, and beckoned from the dark night of the soul. It sprang the imagination into desperate outlets such as creating works of art, discovering the powers of nature and perhaps telling a tale or two that wasn’t scripted from the Bible—it was lived.

I remember my father saying, “Reflection in solitude was (his) salvation” and was/is a meditative state whether you are “sitting” or toiling away. He would say, “Our minds think in tune with our bodies’ rhythm and if you pay attention, you can hear many messages.”

It was a time when natural surroundings had so much meaning, so much pleasure and owning land was not a right, it was a gift.

Dad’s family wasn’t immersed in a hope for Eden, just hope. There weren’t unreal expectations or entitlements. Everything was earned and they were damn proud of where they were in their moments.

Strict regiments were enforced with love, not with power. So morals and manners came as a natural result of this love. Mutual adoration for the Mother (earth) and the Father (sky) went deeply into their/our brown skin—passing it on generation-to-generation flowing like the rivers where they called home.

The answers to questions (the family Koans) that were held in the family were from a distant memory and shown they could be found in the most remote places of our silence.

But the sacred knowledge, simple symbols and messages often plagued my father, as he knew some things were never to be exposed on this plane without consequences.

I wanted to know it all.

Although my father was extremely generous with his love, he could never quite express his emotions and held them in a vodka bottle—but that was also a “family trait” passed generation-to-generation. I could find him often staring into the night sky and he would tell me, “There is so much out there, but Deb, it scares the hell out of me.” Then there would be a silence and a serenity (I can still feel it often) and when I would press him on these things, he would stop talking.

He went to his grave with all the secrets yet he gave us more than he realized.

What little we received in secret knowledge, he gave to us in inspiration and pushed us to use our intuition. He never laid a hand on us; that wasn’t the “family way” but he could take us out with a single look and the shaking of his head in disappointment. (In my eyes, the look was worse then being smacked).

Instilling virtues and respect is a lost art these days and we are all spoiled to the bones when it comes to “work”—very few have those skills anymore. I am grateful for my father, his father and so on who gave us their best and I have seen it reflected over and over in my own children and grandchild and I am sure my dad is smiling.

Life is transient. I learned this at a very tender age and thankfully through my father’s wisdom. Death (I learned) is not scary, just death.

He also taught us to grasp that life is precious, a lot of work but worth it, and he said, “Give alms in any form.” That is how we rise. There is much to know, so little time.

So now, I think I will go chop some wood, grab some enlightenment, maybe eat a sandwich and carry on.

Photo: andy carter/Flickr

Feature photo: (source)

Editor: Sherrin Fitzer