By John Lee Pendall
Where have all the fields gone?
Corn, beans, hay, corn, corn, corn, pot—gone. Houses grow from the earth here, laid out in rows across the city grid. Houses full of people, most of them terrible but some of them are probably great. I see them wander about throughout the day as I take care of my demented (literally, she has dementia) grandmother.
Most of them are elderly bicyclists making their way back and forth from the corner pub. They’re pleasant enough, but they seem distant and absorbed. Then there are the dog walkers, school kids speaking in some esoteric code, and the occasional solo woman who looks at me cautiously when I say hello because we live in a time and place where it’s lifesaving to see strange men as potential murderers and rapists. So, thanks—murderers and rapists—for poisoning the well for everyone else.
Fields. Cemeteries are fields. We plant bodies there in neat little rows with neat little tombstones. Well, most of them are little; some are pretty decadent. But even the largest, most intricately designed ones are dwarfed by the weeping willows and big sky they loiter under. Dwarfed by the mountains a thousand miles East and West from here. Dwarfed by the distance and, minute by minute, cleared away by time.
Life is easier with a big mind, a cosmic mind with the universe constantly in its field-of-view.
Late at night, I can still see Jupiter, Venus, and the brightest stars—even through the light pollution. Jupiter: small enough to fit through your pupil, yet larger than several Earths. The stars and planets are planted in space, held together by the sheer weight of their own, well, weight. Their patterns are less symmetrical than human ones. Instead of neat rows, they stagger and limp in lopsided circles through space and time.
Nature seems to tirelessly strive to do the same thing with our carefully planned lives, neighborhoods, and plots.
This moment, this mind is a field that nature sowed for me long ago, and that nurture waters, weeds, and fertilizes. The weather and sunshine (the world-at-large) do the rest. What happens if I let it go fallow? Well, weeds will sprout up everywhere for one thing. The planned crops—both the tasty and toxic ones—will slowly lose ground, disappearing after a few generations. Trees might sprout up, and grow into shade-gifting sentinels over the years.
The birds, mice, rabbits, spiders and shrews would thrive in the overgrowth—an unplanned field. The unplanned of unplanned person. I can feel some of the city’s tension leaving me just at the thought of being no one, of ditching my nurture and letting nature run the show.
Nurture only sees the most obvious fields.
But, it turns out, there are fields everywhere because a field is a relationship. Relationships are the essence of all things (and vice versa). Things don’t really interact directly, but by trading the forces that move them along. Like a pitcher passing along a little bit of their kinetic energy to the ball.
That force doesn’t stop with the ball. Then it goes to the outfielder who catches it, then the third basemen. It travels endlessly. A field of forces. A mindfield that each of us grows from, thrives in, and then dissolves back into.
This isn’t a religion; these are just observations that anyone can stop and see. Religions (including Buddhism), draw conclusions from them and tell you to accept them. They try to nurture us. But this is your field. We’ve all gotta figure out how to tend to them ourselves. My conclusions are just my conclusions. Our job, as contemplatives, isn’t to indoctrinate but motivate.
So, what are you growing?
Editor: Dana Gornall
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