Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Heart Can Hold Everything

Cormorants lining up, taking turns, passing time

I paused on my ride to quietly watch some cormorants lined up on the canal bank. My mind was overwhelmed, frankly, with everything trying to fire through it at the same time: threads from work that needed tying off, weekend planning, home stuff, personal stuff, a little bit about what to blog and what to say although that typically doesn't weigh much, the noisy derailleur that needs replacement soon (bent hanger? stuffed cables? capacity? cage length? frame alignment? chuck it all and go single permanently? etc). Plus, and not complaining here just observing, fatigue washing over my mind in waves strong enough to make me wonder if I was too tired to ride a bicycle safely.

So I focused on the birds a moment and breathed deep. What were they up to? Bored with lack of fish, possibly, they formed a line. Appeared to be taking turns. One at a time, splash into the water, swim past the line, flap back up onto the bank, next one goes. A very individual activity, it looked like, for what we often think of as flock creatures doing everything together. Do they have a concept of line-up, of taking turns, of counting? Is that how they keep track of large families, eight or ten swimming along, but no moving on until all ten are caught up and accounted for?

Sylvia Boorstein in Pay Attention, For Goodness' Sake, relates an incident of walking along in silence with a group of fellow retreat members and coming across a family of quail with 12 tiny babies crossing the road, the parents squawking and somehow keeping track of all 12 until all were across. With minds similarly full as mine with stuff dredged up during the retreat, and compelled by the imposed silence to not talk about it, all of the people watching the birds seemed to have had a similar reaction to the quail family, and knew that the reaction was similar without speaking it: quail can count. Boorstein's conclusion, in a moment of clarity as she was working to collect up and bring perspective and perhaps sense to so much: the heart can hold everything, Equanimity is possible. This rings true for me. The mind thinks what it thinks, sometimes an exhausting laundry list of threads firing through and around, but always expecting itself, alone, to order it all up, collect tie up and terminate the threads in some kind of neat quiet end state, nice it all down, can itself become yet another thrashing thread, using up energy and cycles, consuming attention, fostering ill feeling, stress, discord.

Can birds really count? I don't actually know. But, calmed by them a bit, I know that it's probably time to stop worrying the derailleur and let my hands go to work. They know what to do, they are actually pretty good with making the chain go around the cogs, through the pulleys, up and around in a smooth and orderly fashion. Time to let hands do what they do. The heart can hold everything. The chain can chain smooth, and quiet.

Equanimity seeking, a balanced tension between linear motion, spinning gears, springs and chain



  1. I take it that you avoided the haboob that occurred in Phoenix on Sunday? I saw some photos in the on-line Phoenix New Times that looked very impressive!

    I live in Tucson, and we luckily have avoided any recent major dust storms of that intensity (although I did experience one many years ago). The drive on I-10, however, seems to be a really dangerous activity during these storms.

  2. Pimadude, I honestly had no idea a big dust storm was coming while I was preparing for an afternoon ride. Then my phone started making this shrill "emergency broadcast system" type wailing sound. I picked it up and found an emergency alert about a dust storm in my area. Sure enough, about ten minutes later, the towering wall of dust hit. It looked like one of the higher tops I've seen, and it packed plenty of dust, but the winds were not the strongest, mainly just gusty as it first hit. Visibility dropped way down. Glad I didn't ride. Thanks, Emergency Haboob Warning System!


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.