The subconscious specter of potential for violence is a natural, arguably justifiable part of human interactions on every level. We are animals with vicious, amoral instincts underlying moral, interpersonal, empathetic brains. The ghost of the threat of violence lends creedence to the value of trust: I trust that you could hurt me, but you won’t. This is why Jordan Peterson says, “A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control.” And so we should not be eager for violence. We should hate violence, because we know we are killers, even if we must kill, but we must not be eager for it. We should all be eager to develop such serious wisdom and extraordinary self-control as to avert real violence, thereby making any possible necessary violence undoubtedly defensible in those terrible moments when we are absolutely forced to use it.
It has been a while since I’ve collected my thoughts fro publication, here. I’ve been occupied with learning Japanese (again) in long and mostly satisfying hours of study. I began learning Japanese as a child, and I have always wanted to finish the job. T and I are also looking to move, soon, and I am fixated on discarding as many unnecessary belongings as possible, a task that is at once intensely cleansing and liberating while also anxiety-producing. Among the things that have piled up lately are the stacks of journal entries in various notebooks that I have been sorting through. Here are some of these writings.
The senses are an ally. They lead us into the heart of praise and happiness. Stoicism only takes a human heart so far. After the medicine of moderating and dis-attaching from inflated emotion, it is a sweet renewal to return to the upwelling praise and astonishment at the life of the physical word.
You who bring all the stars into being, my relationship with you is changing. I feel better about it because I am not so lonely when I am not missing you so much. I am more comfortable, now, in the natural apathetic doubt of adulthood. But I do not vilify this natural distance we humans feel from you, sometimes. Because of my refusal to vilify such a naturally-occuring disinterest in constantly thinking about the divine, I feel less theistic than ever. This is peaceful in its own way. Still, I hope that the quiet between us will not last too long.
Through the human ability to form words comes rushing the ancient, pre-humanly infinite energy of creation. But because we are so limited in our articulate power and so endlessly restless in our search for the holy, I am coming to understand how a departure from such chasing of truth and intensity brings great relief to the sapiens mind. Is this a part of what the Zen Buddhists allude to?
Our species, they say, was parted in ancient days
85,000 years ago at a road running two ways
out of Africa; it was on a cliffside, imagine:
the boundless earth of beasts beyond humans,
a deep wilderness yet to know a first campfire:
we wore the same skin, then. You stood
on the edge of a dry place, my right cheek
facing north to where the earth opened up
into a cavernous trail beckoning my progeny
into a country unnamed, a foreigner’s skin.
Last night I woke up at 3:30am with a feeling pulling me to go sit outside for a little while. I call this a sit-spot, coming from my time as a student at Wilderness Awareness School where this tradition of sitting, quietly, in the natural world is practiced. It is near-constantly rainy in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, but last night the sky was perfectly clear, and I could see every star not obscured by the city lights, and the air was a cool but pleasant temperature.
I sat on our gravel driveway where we never park our cars, the place where, for three years, I have neglected to make a fire though I have lived here with my partner who owns the land and would happily allow me to do so. Why have I not made a fire? This is an important question to me: being near a real fire has been a sacred practice in my life. I still loathe fake gas fires with a deep repulsion unknown to most of my modern peers. Fires must be made by friction, or by a simple lighter with a hand-assembled tinder bundle at most. We all need to have our ritual ways.
When I woke up this morning, the stomach ache from eating three spoon-fulls of delicious bee pollen at 3:30am before going outside was still gnawing at me, but I slept really well. I usually sleep like a rock, regardless of almost anything, and I count this a lucky blessing. But upon waking, I got word that there will be an elder fire tonight, where the older folks of the community come together to share minds with the younger ones at a place we call home, and I should go to this. Tomorrow I will hear stories around a fire with new friends, too. Maybe the fire is coming back to me, but it is a calming fire, now, not the fervent, uncontrollable feeling of my youth.
The stars were beautiful last night. I noticed that the Big Dipper was positioned differently than how I am used to seeing it. That is to be expected, but it matters to notice these things with our own eyes.
What I thinking most about last night was my own ability to logic my way out of depression, which I’ve had a perpetual case of to varying severities since adolescence. While sitting remarkably peacefully under the stars (“remarkably”, because I have often felt self-conscious, monkey-minded and unworthy while sit-spotting) then subsequently breathing myself into a restful sleep back in bed despite my foolish overconsumption of bee pollen causing a tummy ache, I was continuing to consider the wisdom that I truly do have the ability to change my mindset at any moment. I am on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, and I do think they work to a possibly life-saving degree. But good scientific medication is only half the effort (don’t talk to me about woo woo “naturopath” medicine, please), where the other half of thriving is the far harder effort of changing one’s own mind.
But is it effort, exactly, with such strenuousness? Or is it simply being, that delivers us into the peace of “no-thought“? I’m thinking back to Natalie Goldberg’s wonderful book, Writing Down the Bones, where she refers to the power of writing in the right mindset that she learned through her Buddhist study with Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Zen Buddhism is infamously easy and difficult all-in-one, and I’m no practicing expert, but the sense I got from the teachings in these books were what I like to call “matter over mind“. (Isn’t that fun? I thought of that. Probably someone else has, too, just like eyes evolved in the animal kingdom separately in various complex species.)
And here I am, on this clear morning, with a clearer mind, finally writing and thinking fluidly with the lighter breath I was looking for. Here is how I can describe this “matter over mind”.
The human mind, and all it produces, are phantoms. The brain is its own constant enemy, or friend, depending on its untamed impulses. I think that this is the image of the untamed horse and rider that Tibetan Buddhists talk about: the mind is the horse, the person is the rider. The human brain is crazy. Even typically healthy brains with no signs of depression or any worse mental illness are just crazy deep down in there. But what a light-hearted relief, what soothing valve for mental pressure it is to acknowledge this. It’s crazy being human!
Speaking from my own depressed brain in its gravest dips into pain, this human brain produces longings and memories and fear and intense feelings that serve no purpose but to cause anguish, now. This is progress from my former way of valuing these emotional depths as something spiritual I wanted to protect, even if they pained me greatly. Now, I don’t want to pin my spirituality on these emotional weights, even if they do produce some great art and passionate spiritual feeling. I’d now rather be calm and utterly mature, like an unshakable old Sequoia tree, unbothered by and calmly accepting of the insanity of life. Big change in perspective.
The minds of other animals do not appear to be nearly as harried by this human craziness. Animals must be completely grounded in the reality of the physical world around them. Matter over mind. The world of what is profoundly real, this physical world exterior of the brain’s torturous phantoms, is the anchor of sanity, to a very serious point. Those who are clinically insane are diagnosed as such precisely because they have lost contact with blessed physical reality. And physical reality is blessed, because it is the foundation of everything and so is infinitely valuable though sometimes sadly disregarded and overlooked for its goodness. The constant ground of matter –the literal ground of the world holding us securely in gravity, covered by a blanket of sky– shall always exist independent of the brain’s self-cycling drama.
Matter over mind. Constantly looking inward is the source of a lot of suffering. Looking outward, instead, brings relief. The mind will always be crazy inside, but when anchored in the physical matter of the world, it is calm.
The brain does not change its neural pathways by wishing, or by praying, but by doing. The will to change one’s actions doesn’t even come from the inner mind, but instead comes from a grounded awareness in the reality of the real exterior world. Matter over mind.
I focus here not on the “action” of social political agitation, which I am mortally tired of. I mean the action of physical movement and awareness: breathing, walking, focus on the movement of a leaf on a tree, the presence of an animal.
What should be made of the inner sanctum of the mind? It is this place of refuge from the harsher parts of the exterior world that I have cultivated for so long, guarding its impulses even in the anguish it causes. I am not alone in having wanted to retreat from the glaring, unnatural clatter of urban life. Coming to terms with the atonal disharmony of our current times is also an act of kindness to ourselves, forgiveness for the environmental stress we feel, in that we should not expect ourselves to be perfectly at peace all the time. We are fervently trying to adapt to a changing landscape. But this effort at adaptation puts us in good company with all our plant and animal relatives of evolution, who themselves have survived all environments, peaceful and hostile, to get us here. We can feel less alone when we realize that, by our experience of environmental disharmony and subsequent behavioral adaptation to adjust to or even influence our environment, we are participating in the long and beautiful life of evolution itself. This mental inner sanctum of refuge from harsh environmental exteriors should then be a temporary refuge, and not an addictive escape from reality. This is a critical distinction. There is too much attempting to escape reality, now, at the cost of losing that shimmering image of beauty which we seek in our escape, for only The World itself truly offers this relief. The effort of the wise is to find this shining world open its way to us, even among the grit of inquietude. In every city there are the laws of physics, still: the pull of gravity never leaves us, and the air is present, and even animals and plants are to be found slowly and surely repopulating their habitats. Most significantly, should I give in to the temptation to view the creatures of nature as in a war against the structures of human design? I should not, for then I would see myself as an enemy to my anchoring world of matter, when I am no less a native animal here than the nearest little creature who scuttles or flies. Nothing can truly be ever outside of nature. That is, by definition, impossible. Nature is the sum total of all that is real. Ultimately, all our human designs are within this force as much as any other assembly of atoms. Matter over mind. The inner sanctum of the human mind needs constant fortifying by the solidity of the great exterior world of matter, which is the very definition of solidity itself. Then, we carry the world of matter within us, and it is a constant source of peace.
I am convinced now that this is how animal minds endure the hardships of their own lives. They cannot afford to be distracted by fantasies. Their lives and entire mental wellbeing depend on their constantly being centered in the physical world itself, and in the wild they show no trace of boredom. It is possible that the “domestication” of modern humans contributes greatly to the mental suffering of our time. If this is so, and the environment is unlikely to spontaneously change for us, then it is all the more important that we creatively adapt to and influence our environment not by escaping from it, but by going into it in sensory awareness.
This sensory awareness practice is what I was being taught at Anake Outdoor School at Wilderness Awareness School. I was not ready to understand it until now. But, like all great and complicated human communities that impart wisdom, they taught this wisdom alongside what felt like a contradictory practice. In my words, I’d call it too much navel-gazing, too much self-examining of so many emotions. It’s possible it only felt like too much to me, because I had done it already for so long and to a pointless, depressive degree, whereas such self-examination is new and useful to others.
From the beginning, animals accept this Dark Mother that is present in the beauty and violence of natural life. This Dark Mother is an archetypal rendering of the simultaneously nurturing and brutal aspects of Great Nature, as Shinto beautifully and simply names it. Nature is the mother who gives birth in one breath, then impersonally strangles the helpless infant in the next (countless babies in have died in childbirth from umbilical cords wrapped around their necks). Great Nature brings us abundant food and the right amount of sun and rain, then is unrestrained in famine. She allows a creature to escape from certain agony by the fortune of its genes for swiftness or camouflage, while another is crushed by an amoral falling tree. Evil exists, but it is a construct only of human social life, and is natural only insofar as the human brain with its demons is natural, though we have every justification to expect our humanity to behave morally. Evil is not a component of all the rest of Nature. This does not mean it is less of a serious thing: we use the word “evil” to rightly describe extreme and unjustified suffering, such as torture or rape, caused upon one social, sentient being by another. The amorality of scientifically-revealed “Great Nature” is, then, all the more a relief to the human brain which tires in these maturing centuries of distinguishing the phantom agents of evil and good beyond the human sphere, once attributed to gods. A tsunami is devastating, but it can never be called “evil”.
Today is a beautiful, rare sunny day in a Seattle winter. I want to get out and enjoy it, but with humor I am realizing that I won’t enjoy it if I follow my typical pattern of anxious thinking by worry about not enjoying it enough. That’s a non-helpful thought pattern of seeing this bright day as something I need to “measure up” to. Instead, there is no pressure of measuring up to this day by showing it how much I appreciate it by going snowshoeing for fifteen miles and wiping myself out. If I merely go out into it and don’t even think about being “happy” or “sad”, then the calm of a deeper happiness comes.
What this comes back to, in my original point about calming the crazy human brain through sensory awareness, is the value of not extending moral judgments further than they need to be applied. I am prone to feeling unreasonable guilt, even for such ridiculously common reasons as being depressed in itself. You can see how this becomes a depressive cycle. That is an overuse of the human need to name “good” and “evil” actions. It is easy for depressed brains to turn this thinking on themselves, and fall into a cycle of feeling a lack of worth or ability to be “good” again. But when we see that this depression is only the result of a brain being a brain, merely in need of getting outside of itself and into amoral Nature, relief is found. A brain is not committing a wrong just by being depressed, but it is doing a right action by putting matter over mind.
Featured image: “High Desert” © 2017 Gentle J. Pine. Watercolor on paper.
Journal Entry from 7/24/2016
My cats are relatives of lions! –of large and small wildcats, they are relatives to them all. My cats are “guardian spirits” to me, my “familiars”, with their bright yellow-green jewel eyes and same stripedy patterns of their wild cousins. It is a blessing and a delight they have come to settle in with us human domestics, to purr at our feet, begging kibbles and bonking our faces with their adorable ways. A story goes that cats became domesticated so that humankind would have the pleasure of snuggling the tiger. Actually, the truth is probably nearer to the opposite: humans became domesticated so that cats could have the pleasure of sitting on us!
Baby Mawzawoo, at three months old, is Mr. Independent Bug Hunter who pounces and tumbles over the small woolen toy I made for him, practicing for prowling in the wilderness like a big tough kitty. He will not go into the wilderness, but he brings the vitality of his wildness home to us. His brother, Aiboorah, is my big goofy cuddle-baby-lion who doesn’t lose an opportunity to sit in my lap or on my back as I stretch out on the floor. His way of “hunting” is to be a lazy paw-swatter on his pack, like an over-confident comic male lion. I love these little cats more than I can put into words, so much it makes my heart hurt in that extraordinary way. House cats are hilariously wild and yet merely big kittens for life.
We humans used to know the names of all beasts and plants and called them our friends. Wandering out of Africa into deep green and dark northern forests we met our Neanderthal cousins, sharing their likeness. The world was endless then, when all hominids hunted their food and gathered from the plants. The world itself was sanctuary and home. I get the sense that, finally, I may be lucky to be living at a time when this way of loving The World as our permanent home is returning to us.
Little Kitten, descendant of great beasts, bless us with your wilderness condensed into your small body, the wilderness you carry within your snuggly, tiny self, little stripes and spots of the tiger, heart of the lion. Your energy is boundless and full of vitality in every muscle, paws eager to seek out the path of the jungle. Little Cat, remind us that we too are like you, The World within us, and that we have not “fallen” so far from your happiness. Give us persistence to find our way home in The World.
Little kitties, is this why you came to snuggle us in the Neolithic days? You could not have known the changes coming for our species, that we would come to love you so dearly. It is the Lifeworld we want, and this you greatly bring to us, The World that you live in, that you carry within yourself, pounces and bright eyes alert and at the ready to purrs. It is this vitality we long to be reborn to. We have loved you and called you friend, miniature Tiger, tiny Lion, herald of happiness. May happy landscapes await us where the night is more joyful, the dawn more delighting, and lively animal forms are pouncing unceasing in lovableness along the paths of our lives.
I haven’t wanted to call myself a “writer”. It sounds like another big-deal identity label with all sorts of implications. The sound of it brings to mind people way more disciplined than myself, who are way more at peace than I am with sitting in a chair for long hours on end. They’re more organized than I am, and more determined to advertise themselves, and they use desks (I prefer the floor). Writing is just one thing I do as an act of devotion to remembering God.
I can be meditatively content indoors, like a writer, especially on a stormy or smoggy, hot day. It is delightful to be in a beautiful monastic place, like my house or a church or the library. But sitting in a chair? Feet down on the floor, my butt falling asleep? No. I need to sit criss-cross, then lay on my stomach, then my back, then stretch, then squat, then sit back in the chair with my feet up on the table like I don’t have no manners, all while getting up to walk around every 30 minutes or so. There’s a reason most of my pieces are brief. I agree with the sentiment of Thomas Mann: “I would rather live life than write a hundred stories.”
I’ve felt leery about the pantsuit of “writer” as an identity because I sense an attitudinal trend of self-absorption, cynicism and lack of heart-centered joy among the current writing scene, dating back a solid three-quarters of a century or so. People get stuck in their heads, something I’ve certainly been prone to but which I’m getting further away from, and happily.
Back in college, in one of my writing classes, I was engaged in a discussion about the responsibility writers have to real people on whom fictional characters are based. To what extent must we care to disguise their identity and protect their privacy? What gratitude do we owe this great source material that is reality? We covered the moral and legal implications to this, but a number of my classmates insisted they have no obligation to tread carefully with characters who are nearly synonymous with real, identifiable people.
It’s been said that writers don’t participate fully in the magic of imminent life, because they’re too busy writing about it from a distance. I think there’s some disturbing truth in this. The temptation is there for writers to long for the experiential magic of the beautiful world, then find it but not know what to do with it except take notes from the sidelines, where it is lonely. Then they become embittered that they feel shy and self-conscious and depressed and why aren’t they happy being stuck in their head all day? This has become the case of the modern writer.
Again, I say this because I’ve certainly had my own moments like these, but then I figured out it was ridiculous and not good for the human heart. The page is not the world. The vitality of the lifeworld comes first because that is where the sensual life of the world breathes and moves and it is where God is found looking out through the eyes of all creatures. That is the image of God I most love, the Beautiful One who looks out through the eyes of all creatures, feeling as we creatures feel, but larger than our individualism, our stupid notion of segregation from each other. How can life be worth the energy spent on anything else? To be a good writer and a worshipful human is to remember God always and play affectionately with the rambunctious Creator in the off-leash dog park, to look for the mysterious Lord, the Beloved, in all creatures and places, unto the shadows of moments. To worship is to stand in the presence of this deep and powerful Beauty, for you get the privilege to live in the Beloved’s breathing world of natural and ancient enchantment that hasn’t ceased to be in search of us even in modern, cranky cities. (How’s that for a paradigm shift?)
To get into the practice of this state of mind as a writer, it may require not writing for a time, if the result is to come out of self-absorption in your head to live more immediately in the lifeworld. You will finally not think so much about what you are pissed off about, but will revel more in the great Beauty that includes you but is more than you and outlives all our petty problems. Yes, then to write about it, to catch those images with words that strike the heart tenderly –that is to be a good writer. To practice, as devotion, the act of worship in writing. To do anything else with the gift of writing is to waste precious mortal time.
I don’t get the sense that the current “writer” identity has much awareness of any of this. There is not the act of standing in the presence of great Beauty: there is a sour attitude of nihilism. That isn’t to say that the occasional heated bit of written constructive criticism of injustice isn’t good medicine sometimes (the prophets of old knew this well). But now our words are sold for anger, for clicks, for the divisive poisoning of my beloved species.
Back in that classroom discussion, I said we have a responsibility to respect the lives of the real people who inspire fictional characters –and the lands that inspire fictional places–, for this marvelous reality is the world upon which all others are based. We can give praise from our hearts for that gem of inspiration, grateful that we get to live in such an enchanted world as this. We are not to abuse the source of the inspiration itself. This same principle should apply to all who would call themselves “writers” but use words of anger not for healing real and serious injustice, not for shining truth unto evil, but for instigating squalid fights over trivial political pickings that cause not healing for the people. Such poison words you sew are an infestation of resent among your countrypeople, among your own humankind, ye mobbing horseshoe extremists of any and every party.
“Words have consequences; writing is a moral act,” writes Philip Zaleski, editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. “To recognize this pays a triple dividend, for it inoculates us against the three daily literary devices of pandering to popular taste, creative laziness, and didacticism. The last item may surprise those who fear that any talk of moral writing will unleash an army of bluenoses ready to censor at will or of apparatchiks who will demand a political subtext to every sentence. But such worries stem from misunderstanding the obligations placed upon us by the nature of the craft. To write ugly prose, or to cripple one’s language to meet the standards of the day, or to warp one’s creation into a political placard –all this is to write immorally. The task of the spiritual writer is to uphold truth and beauty at whatever cost, in whatever way his art demands.”
To be a good writer is to accept that writing is limited. It is not a living body, it is not the indescribably glimmering image about which a thousand words must be called upon to cumbersomely begin to describe it. It is not eternal, for language changes constantly and may persist in one intelligible form only a few hundred years, then be lost to the winds of change or forgetting. A thousand thousand languages have already gone this way, for as long as our ancestors had the vocal chords and brains to speak. Writing is not sound or light or touch, but a hopeful second-hand account of these. Writing is young in the age of the earth, and it is brash. Writing thinks itself to be authoritative and know a whole lot, like a teenager.
To be a good writer is to form words with loving joy and reverence, to stand in the presence of great Beauty. The human duty to live with such a heart is more important than getting a book deal or social media followers. Social media shall all someday be ground into dust by the shifting of continents. So, too, may the human heart, but its affect has more serious consequences, and underpins any value our media technologies may lay claim to. This temporality puts our priorities into perspective. Now, when I think about my own self in writing, I worry the most about choosing the right words with the right heart, because life is short, and I have the strange and rare privilege of being born a Homo sapiens with a species-specific power so rare among the eons. That is my identity, Homo sapiens, inheritor of the Phylum Chordata, called to know and love God. The call of the good writer is exuberantly subservient to this.
I don’t want to put anything into the world that I wouldn’t want to eat with my own heart’s hunger in another lifetime to come. I may be a Blue Whale someday, and I may find myself hungry for good krill and the love of my pod and a deep black motherly ocean, so may my words be as good as these. I may be a little worm hungry for comforting good soil to build a little house in the ground; so may my words be as good, as whole and right as these. I may be a cheerful speck of dust or a beam of golden sunlight who rides the space between the sun and sweet Earth; so may my words be as good as these. For God saw fit to make these friends of hers, and to put voices into our hominid throats, but it is we who sculpt our own words. May they remember her, these brief words of humanity. If I am to be remembered myself, I want to be remembered as the one who remembered God amidst my contented, hilarious, peaceful insignificance. Don’t write words that don’t matter, that you wouldn’t want a future intelligent alien civilization to discover five billion years from now and the words you wrote, providing their ability to decrypt your long dead language, are the only account of life on earth they find. There are so many words that don’t matter. Choose the ones that do.
Zaleski, Philip. “Introduction by Philip Zaleski.” Introduction. The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print.
I dreamt that Antarctica warmed, and instead of melting, it became a great conifer forest. Birds of the Americas delivered the seeds of trees carried in their gut and their wings. When the seeds touched the ice, out came green saplings writhing like caterpillars in a protective ball around animal fetuses, cocoons for refugees from lost lands. In time, this new world blossomed into a dark green forested land not unlike Alaska, full of giant new beasts who glow in the night from radiation. Long ago, the humans entered into this place from South America, and hid deep in the ground to survive the war of ice and fire washing over the planet. One century, many lifetimes later, when a quietness not known for eons had settled over the whole earth and the war of the elements ended, a new creature crawled out from the darkness beneath. Her eyes ice blue and transparent-wide, her skin a membrane of milk and watery veins which had forgotten the sun and the moon; her kind become the descendent of the remaining Homo sapiens. On claws, groaning songs like the whales who once were, her people crawled like spiders into the forest, Homo mutatur, the last of the awoken apes. The time of their species stretched out as a nebula’s hourglass, howling their new and final prayers into the boundless forest beneath the shadows of the mountain.
Memory from a dream on October 7th, 2012
I dreamt last night that I was a traveler through a great house of time showing me the ages of the earth. For so long it was the Age of Reptiles in their green and watery chambers of cool stone and warm, wet vine, their habitation stretching snakelike under the earth where the sun’s rays broke from time to time in pieces the tepid sky of the water’s surface, for we were submerged. Black stone as slick and heavy as night, and yellow eyes with slits the blacker I looked into, and marveled in fearful awe at the seeming eternity of their reign. How they marched in circles around their prey, I remember: giant crocodiles, lizards standing upright with horns for crowns, scales of purple and yellow-green, talons and slit pupils readied to kill, to slice and devour. In a circle they marched as one plays musical chairs, as if making thoughtless light of their killing, and the one who was to be slaughtered was jailed in the middle. I studied their ways even as I managed to evade them with the ever-present gift of flight I am blessed with in sleeping. Through their dim and swampy kingdom I tracked them, tracking into the unnamed eons of sands outpouring millennia, and I saw that their life did not rise again from those bogs of algae and insect but were commemorated only by fly and mosquito at the ready to feast. And now I saw a new age open before me. Escaping at once the death-snap of a monster’s jaws at my heels, I passed through a new door, welcomed as a refugee from execution. There I saw a lamb and a lion, and the waters around them were clear and unmuddied, the translucent blue of a jewel. Other mammals were there too, for this was, at last, the Age of Mammals. Mothers held their young close to their warm blood, furred bellies and pouches, and creatures gathered in affectionate packs of herds, flocks and families. Hoof and paw lived together, and when I could finally take my eyes from the radiant white of the lamb’s body, I saw that there was a temple formed out of the river, out of the landscape of savannah and forest where the great sky was not concealed. If I did not look I may not have seen it, that the arms of creation in branches and mountains held up the altar where the lamb and the lion resided. I perceived now that this altar was also the door I had passed through, and from it’s vantage the whole kingdom was seen without barrier. And I saw that crimson blood flowed from the altar, but the lamb lived, and his blood became water for all the animals of the land. And when the blood of any animal was spilt in this land, for food or for sport or for defense, for good or for ill, the lamb came to the body and the spirit of that animal and gave his own blood to save theirs, and even if all was drained from the body, still would the animal rise. This way, there was to be no death in this age when the age had come to be fulfilled. And at last I looked into the shining blue above and saw creatures with wings, whose yellow eyes, scaled feathers and talons rung familiar to another age and life I strained to remember, as if from a dream, so many eons before. And in their whirling and swooping for pure joy on the wind surrounded by the unveiled light, they looked down on the earth where once they swam and crawled and walked in the swamps, the grasslands and deep forests.
Featured Image © Gentle J. Pine