In the well-lit loft of the Wallowa Buddhist Temple in Joseph, OR, in Wallowa County, (“The County” as the residents tend to refer to it), I sit with seven other people, after a couple of meditation periods, for a Dharma talk and discussion. I look out of the large windows and watch the First Crop snow flakes of the year fall and settle, fall and land plump, wet and they clump, pile up and accentuate the bare trees and and fence rails and there is a relief that finally it has come. I drove about fifteen miles from where I live which is about 300 feet lower in elevation and where there is just wet slush. At the temple, a short distance up Hurricane Creek Rd., it’s real snow. Winter.
The Dharma talk is given by the younger of the two female monks who reside, practice and offer Buddhist teaching at this temple.
As the snowflakes drop, large, gravid and at ease; I see in the windowsill there are three old flies trying to fly up the window to attain some necessary position within their House Fly Imperatives but only manage about a foot of flight before they settle back down on the sill, to try again and again. Life is now very short for these Winter Flies. Later in the day, or the next, their carcasses will be respectfully gathered up and with a verse from the Funeral Ceremony for Animals, will be placed outside, to mix with the snow and settle in to their next activity.
We are having tea and some sweet offerings brought by Sangha members and the Dharma talk is on a tiny portion of the mighty Avatamsaka Sutra, a Chinese text held in high esteem especially in the Chan/Zen traditions and is the basis of the Kegon school of Buddhism in Japan. Its very precise descriptions of inter-related phenomena and how they produce This, and the journey to complete enlightenment that is the understanding of all descriptions and their inherent emptiness. More or less.
The black flies fly upward, constrained by
Clear glass through which I see the white
Snow fall to ground. Heaven touching earth.
The flies are old with wings worn thin, and
Tattered by the efforts life. Like me; although
Warm, eating chocolate, sipping tea, at ease
Listening to the teachings of a deep, ever changing
Present intertwining all of the phenomena as the
Snow falls white and the flies fall black. Buzzing
(the background noise of Silence),
Sangha discusses intertwining while very quiet down
Drifting snow encloses the miracle within each
Condition of the world as it goes on, and on and,
Sure as snowflakes fall to earth, one day, perhaps
Today, if not, then certainly another. I will buzz one
Last time against the false constraint of a window
Pane of my conjuring, and pass through it and join the
Falling snows as they settle to nourish this Earth and