My daughter called from her current home in Peru last week, aghast from afar at the events in Charlottesville. She is not a shrinking violet, my daughter. She has strong opinions and voices them with clear conviction. She knows what she values and I wondered, could we value without judgement? We debated the issue, shared heartfelt feelings. It was something I wanted to think more about. Could we actually value equanimity and tolerance and also condemn nazi (white supremacist) thinking at the same time? We had a good conversation with no clear conclusion as to the existence of a workable middle ground here. I’m not sure she would use the word equanimity, but that is the word and feeling that kept coming to me. How I value, and desire, the state of being that can be unaffected by experience of phenomena, pain or emotion, that might cause the loss of balance in the mind!
Yogi, Nora and I began our habitual path walking in the woods yesterday. Habitual both for the mid-morning time of day that we typically occupy and the actual direction of path we walk. It varied little day to day and I realized how easy it could be to change the routine, change the thinking that it had to be this way. And then felt the thread of resistance rise up to meet this thought. Fear of change. It is such a primal feeling, so embedded in a need for safety and survival as to take my breath away when I see it so clearly in moments like this. We came up to the pond. And there was the stool, sitting in the place it had always sat. Someone had fished it out of the water and carried it back to its habitual home here.
Who? When? The mystery of the stool’s reappearance collided with a sense of balance that erased all traces of doubt and fear that I had previously been harboring about its demise. I sat on the stool now and took in the familiar view.
And then walked around to the water’s edge where the dogs typically played, typically a place I viewed from afar. I now threw sticks to see ripples, submerged my hand to feel the cool wet, felt the intimacy of growth there. As I turned to re-join the path, I was met with a view head on that would have gone unnoticed had I not changed the routine.
A forest floor full of the white ghost-like groups of long stem mushrooms that I had been seeing more and more of this summer in small isolated bursts. But here there were so many of them peacefully sharing the resources of this one particular plot.
The feeling of awe I felt became a spark that ignited the thought, there is a lesson here. I came home and looked up ‘grouping of long stemmed white mushrooms in the forest’ and was immediately met with images and articles of this plant that is nick-named ‘Indian Pipe’. And though I wasn’t surprised to find this Native American story embedded in one of the articles, I felt chills go through me nonetheless.
The Origin of the Indian Pipe Plant
As told by John Rattling-Gourd
Before selfishness crept into the world- that was a long time ago- the Cherokee people were happy and peaceable. They used the same hunting grounds and fishing grounds as their neighbors. They fished in the same streams and hunted in the same stands of forest. There were no arguments about boundaries and there were no arguments about fishing rights. But this was before Men became greedy. All this changed when Men learned to quarrel.
The first quarrel that arose was between Cherokee and a neighboring tribe. It was a long and bitter quarrel, so bitter that the chiefs of the two tribes decided to meet in council to try and settle their trouble. And so they met, one day, and they smoked the peace pipe in solemn council, but the did not stop quarreling. A puff on the peace pipe and a bitter was the way it went. Days passed and still the council sat and smoked and quarreled.
Now the Great Spirit was much displeased that the Indians should quarrel while smoking the pipe of peace. An the Great Spirit said, “I shall have to do something to you men that will show you that People should live together in peace, and that when Indians smoke the pipe, it must be done in peace.”
The Great Spirit looked down at the old Men sitting in all that smoke. And he saw how gray they looked and how their heads hung down in weariness because it had been many nights since they had slept. And so he turned the old Men who smoked there in the council into small silvery gray flowers, their heads bent over and their petals hoary.
If you should find one in the woods and turn it so that the head is down and the stem up, you will see that it looks like an Indian pipe, and so it is called to this day. But in the woods where they are often seen clustered together, they appear to be little gray People sitting in long council.
Now after the Great Spirit had changed the quarreling Indians into flowers and set them out in the forest, he noticed that the smoke from their pipes still hung heavy in the air above the place where the council had been. So he gathered up the smoke and draped it over the mountains as a reminder. And he left it there until such time as all Men shall learn to live in peace together.
I love this image of smoke draped over the mountain. There are so many ways that I can connect with it emotionally. I didn’t go to Boston to be in community with the thousands that gathered there yesterday in solidarity for peace and a different way. Instead, the time celebrating Ben’s birthday with dear family friends, and the moment of exquisite tenderness captured as Ben held the hand of his two year old companion, became beacons of this day living in peace.
But my spirit was there in Boston, as I carried the image of fog lifting each morning from the hills that are now my home, as a reminder that there is always the opportunity, every single day, to re-align my thoughts with a peaceful way.