Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Being and moss
I was doing my “signal to noise” exercise at the lake this morning, trying to pick out all the voices I could hear: cicadas, crows, wrens, jays, squirrels, woodpeckers, etc. It’s actually harder than you might expect. The critter sounds meld together like the instruments in an orchestra. Your ear gets hooked on a particular pitch and deafens you to the others. I had probably been listening carefully for more than a minute before I heard a cricket which had actually been chirping like mad the whole time.
While my ears and brain were engaged with listening, I saw a pretty patch of moss, and I crouched down to run my hand over it. I did it absent-mindendly, the same way you might finger the fabric of your clothes, or pet the cat when it rubs against you. Somehow my intense awareness of sound shifted itself to the sight and feel of the moss, and I experienced one of those moments of pure consciousness. There was no sense of separation between me and the thing I perceived. There was no sense of “me.” There was just the event of perception.
I’ve had those moments before, but usually after meditating or doing ritual. Ordinary life doesn’t produce them very often—at least, mine doesn’t. It’s such a joyous thing, a little glimpse of perfect freedom.
The spell was broken by the arrival of a solitary duck on the lake. He flew in and commenced diving for his breakfast. I started counting off how long he stayed submerged with each dive—One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. He averaged 25 seconds. Try holding your breath for 25 seconds. It’s a nice little stretch of time. I always marvel at the way waterfowl move between the elements.
Photo by Dick Mudde from Wikimedia Commons