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Strange Signs, Human and Natural

And I know that the hand of God is the elderhand of my own,
And I know that that spirit of God is the elder brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers…and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love.
Walt Whitman

Over the last year or so, there have been three phases of anonymous response to meditations under a dying sycamore along the creek on the periphery of town. Taken together, I’m not sure what to make of these signs.

First, there was the appearance of small stone stacks, miniature stupas, around one of my main meditation places. Though I never saw who placed them, I had the feeling it was girls walking home from the nearby junior high school.

They always made me smile, and grew closer and closer to where I sat. They aren’t easy to make; you have to find 5-7 little stones of decreasing size and balance them on top of each other.

Three or four new stone stacks would appear at a time, first alongside the paved bike path 50 meters behind the creek, then in the floodplain adjacent to the tree, and finally right next to the sycamore.

After they stopped appearing, I arrived one day to find a small chrome cross hanging from a nub in the sycamore at eye level. It was homemade, and quite well crafted, with little tassels attached to the ends of the crossbeam, and the word “FAITH” inscribed in the middle.

This was more serious and mature, though I wasn’t sure whether it was a Christian trying to leave me a Christian message, or simply an admonition of faith in general. I didn’t remove the cross, and a few weeks later, it was gone.

I came upon the third sign a few days ago, and it’s the most perplexing. There isn’t a house or an apartment within half a mile, but I was surprised to find an outdoor chair placed at the sitting spot. It’s metal, not collapsible and lightweight, and in good shape.

Does someone else take sittings here? Is it a joke, or a gift? I saw it as a gift, and left a little note of thanks under one of its legs when I left in a meditative state.

There have been tremendous meditations at this place, sometimes leaving one almost unable to move. Regularly opening the gateways to the numinous consecrates a place I feel. Deeply quieting the mind through choiceless attention to its movement in the mirror of nature is not personal, but the complete ending of the personal.

I’ve had many encounters with animals along the creek before so-called development began to destroy the surrounding habitat. Once, a large rattlesnake slithered up through the grass. My legs and arms became springs, and I literally jumped off the ground from a cross-legged position.

Something compelled me to sit back down however. The snake came closer; I held still and remained with my fear. The reptile stretched out beside me, an arm’s length away. It didn’t move, and when I got up 45 minutes later, it felt like I’d been in the wilderness alone for a week.

Many times kites have appeared and hovered directly in front at moments of breakthrough, giving a feeling not just of confirmation, but adding depth to the experiencing of the nameless at that moment.

I haven’t seen one of the graceful falcons for months. A quarter mile behind the creek and sycamore, a monstrosity of a county courthouse was recently completed. It sits in the middle of a huge field, and in recent weeks, bulldozers have begun carving out roads and plots for the homes and businesses that will soon surround it.

The creek runs for two-thirds of the year, and over the 20 years I’ve been taking meditations a few times a week there. On leaving, I ask that whoever comes there, in whatever state of awareness or suffering, feel beauty and gain some blessing from being there.

At deeper level, I’m also not sure what to make of the meaning of the slowly dying great sycamore under which I take meditations. The sycamore is slowly losing limbs as if it had leprosy. I have the feeling that it has metaphysical significance, but it isn’t clear what it signifies.

Does it signify the death of the earth at man’s hands, one’s own deterioration, or the time/space left to meet the crisis of human consciousness?

Perhaps it’s all three. After all, our lives and spirits are inextricably linked to the vitality and diversity of life on earth.

The drive, attention and stillness that bring the benediction are not just for the few. And they are the wellspring of the only true revolution.

Martin LeFevre

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