The Middle of “Nowhere” is “Somewhere” to Someone, and Two Other Short Essays
I love sitting in our sunroom, really anytime. Rain or shine both have their special charms, though the variegatedness (a good devotee word) of storm clouds, rain, and exhilarating wind are far more interesting to write about. Actually this year is a very wet year, which makes the sky even more different and varied than usual at any time one goes outside--that is, if one takes the time to look up! In our society if you stare up at the clouds for more than a casual glance in a major city, people think you are on drugs! Sad testimony to society’s busy-ness or preoccupation with doing “productive” things—i.e., that are good for the economy, as if that were a key to an individual’s happiness. Where I live things are different—in what some would call the middle of nowhere. Maybe nowhere near some congested city, but very much somewhere. Just ask the trees, flowers, creepers, insects, deer, groundhogs, frogs and humans. This is the middle of their little piece of somewhere called home—and home is where the heart is.
Now, although I love our country home retreat and place of bhajan (worship), we are trying to give our heart to that blue cowherd, so that Goloka (Krishna’s abode) will become our home, or the place where our heart resides. Only time separates us. In the mean (happy) time, it’s raining and the skies are gray and moving fast. I wonder what Krishna's color really is like, as material examples or analogies are limited. We hear that Krishna’s color is like “monsoon rain clouds” which are bluish, gray, and often changing quickly between many shades. Krishna's color is also said to be like a glistening blue sapphire. Someday, I won't have to wonder, or rather, I will always be in wonder at Krishna's beauty, and how every day is a festival of loving service!
When we first moved into our home in North Carolina, some nine years ago, a neighbor gave us a small dwarf fig tree. I thanked him, duly planted it, and forgot about it for a few years, till a neighbor told me I had figs on my tree—I’m a very bad farmer. The tree slowly grew into a big bush, and some years I thought it was dead, as it died down to the ground with the snow and freezing temperatures. I was surprised that it kept coming back; giving me another reminder of the determination of organisms to live in spite what appears to be difficult environments (and their caretaker’s neglect). I decided to try to help the plant increase its chances for survival, so I began fertilizing and mulching it to increase the strength of the plant and protect its roots. This has really made a big difference in the size of the tree—more like a huge 12 foot tall bush--since it doesn’t have one main stock, but many as it grows wider every year.
This year in particular, since we have had so much rain, we have had a bumper crop, which began at the end of last month. I have to pick every day, and sometimes I have 50 to 100 figs. As we like the rip figs so do the flying insects of all descriptions. This means I have to pick them at just the right time, when they aren’t too soft and full of bugs or their bite marks, or too hard where they don’t ripen. Fortunately the insects that like figs aren’t too aggressive, though the wasp-looking insects can give one a scare with their loud flying noise and mean looks (another example of when looks are deceiving). While I get a good amount of figs, the insects get their share, since finding them all isn’t so easy. To find the figs on this—call it a bushy tree—takes looking very carefully from all different angles, because the leaves are so large and can hide the figs if I only give a superficial search.
Many important perspectives and accomplishments require a lot of time and energy, and a certain “stick-to-it-ness,” or perseverance to come about, or be revealed. We often see according to our expectations—either positive or negative. Revelation, understanding, or accomplishment always comes about due to grace, but sometimes it requires a tremendous amount of work, and faith in the possible! There is a motivational saying that success often comes one step beyond failure—in other words, those who persevere in spite of all odds, are often rewarded with success, or if they experience a setback, they still learn from the experiences. Another helpful saying to keep in mind is that “When one door closes, another door opens.”
A few years after we moved to our country home, our son, Narayana, began building a concrete pathway around the house. That got the ball going, since I am often not good at beginning a project. So I took over near the beginning of the walkway using a mold to shape the concrete into what appears to be many stones. By working a few hours a day, it took a few months to complete, and was a useful addition to our house, so we could circumnabulate our home Deities (a devotional process), or just walk around the house. However, as with every advantage there is a disadvantage, there are requirements of maintenance. Gradually, over the years, grass and weeds began growing between the divisions in the concrete, and sometimes the quickly growing weeds began to cover the walkway. Thus I had to keep up the path, so it wouldn’t become hidden. While I was weeding yesterday, I thought of this path as like our path of bhakti, or our path toward Krishna. To keep on that path requires we keep up the maintenance of our spiritual practices. Otherwise, it will become covered by the weeds of sense gratification or laziness in our life’s direction. If we don’t clear the weeds regularly, then we will have much more work to do when we do have to uncover our path. I think of a covered path to Krishna as becoming merely a “religious devotee,” who is only officially engaging in sadhana (spiritual practices), or is distracted by frivolous desires or material desires or accumulation of things. (I speak from experience!)