Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Clearing

                                                              Skirt- made by Teeny! From a scarf! It's awesome!
                                                             Mocs-Barter Fair
                                                             Necklace- a gift from Anne. It used to belong to her sister. 
                                                                           It is one of the most precious things anyone has ever given to me. 

I had other ideas for this post, but Mother Nature had her own.
It is September now, the month of mottled sunlight and empty beach, awash with seaweed and dead jellyfish. The few people here are quiet, peaceful, respectful. Gone are the screaming hordes. The animals can tell it too, reclaiming the park.

I have to say that when we got home from the city, I breathed a huge, billowing sigh of relief. It felt more like home than in months. The air smells like freedom and berries and decaying leaves. The stars are impeccably bright.
Native and non-native alike, the fauna once again outnumber the lumbering humans.
The small spotted ones get larger by the day. For the sake of the two seemingly motherless fawns I hope they do grow stronger and more independent fast. Certainly these two had a curious nature, chasing around the cats and chickens, coming close enough to me to feel the air move when they took off. Thankfully they were smart enough to do just that, run for the hills. That gives me hope for them.

We are each in our own element more now, settling in for growing our winter stores (fat or pantry), rejoicing in the sunlight, going about our business.

Pleased to be here, and nowhere else.
Speaking of places you will go, without ever leaving home. This is one of the many things we did on our little holiday:
A small moon, first of five (the tattooing was cut short by the need to see Beasts), an imperfect circle.
The seven words, mine to carry on this earth, first written on a cave wall in about fifteen-hundred years ago by a legendary, or more likely mythical Chinese poet, hermit, and self-proclaimed madman Han Shan. Translated from the original by one Gary Snyder. These words are the last line of a poem Snyder titled simply "Cold Mountain".  In it, Han Shan, who's name also means "Cold Mountain", discusses his life as a hermit, the truths he has managed to glean from years of such a harsh existence among the boulders, creeks and birds of the mountain. The poem touches on freedom, possessions, pressure to conform, the ills of "modern life", social constraints to seeing the truth.

No one truly knows who the historical Han Shan was, how he really lived and died, nor does it matter much.

I'm sure there are other interpretations, but I chose these words because from the first reading of the poem I took them to mean literally everything.

I took them to mean that Cold Mountain is no more a real, tangible place than Han Shan a real tangible historical person. Rather we carry it with us, traveling up its
"Rough and dark - the Cold Mountain trail,
Sharp cobbles - the icy creek bank.
Yammering, chirping - always birds
Bleak, alone, not even a lone hiker"

to get to a place where we find, for the lack of a better word, God, or Enlightenment, some spiritual sense in this world, a way to comprehend, or maybe even ease our suffering...or perhaps nothing more than the journey itself.

That you don't have to be a Zen hermit to get there, or any kind especially religious, pure or moral person, you just have to try. That religious, spiritual seeking is just that. Trying. To be a better person, trying to do least harm, trying to live by your values, trying to practice meditation, loving kindness...trying.
I could go on forever about the meanings behind my handy spiritual post-it note, but I do believe that is another post. I will add though, that the tattoo is not the only reminder of being a religious seeker that I carry on my body today. This beautiful necklace was gifted to me by dear Anne a while back. I've been waiting to wear it for this very special occasion. It used to belong to her sister, who's conviction in her beliefs in utterly inspiring. As is Anne's own.

Lucky for us, we don't most of us travel up that mountain alone.


  1. Gosh, what a gorgeous post! Thanks for bringing us all on this visit to lovely autumn on your island, with the duck in its pool, and the deer and cats on the grass.
    Also, your tattoo is perfect! My husband shared Synder's 'Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems' with me some years ago and it was such a wonderful discovery. I hope these words keep you focused, they're lovely.

  2. A cup of tea in hand then reading your blog, and a few tears about it then, and a breath in, and then out. Thats morning knowing you over there, traveling through and over and up and remembering and remembering and remembering.
    Thank you Milla, I will carry your words with me today.

    Beautiful tattoo

    x E

  3. love it all! the necklace is perfect on you, as i imagined it would be. i'm so happy that it is precious to you, that makes me very happy. your top and skirt made by teeny make for quite an adorable outfit. and your tatoos...i absolutely love them! the quote is wonderful. excellent words to look down on throughout the day to keep you on the right track :D and so true. a few weeks ago when i went to confession i was expressing to the priest my frustration at repeating the same sins over and over and over and the feeling that i was making no progress in the spiritual life. he gave me some very consoling words which were basically that as long as the desire to do better was in my heart, that that was a good place to be. i was trying and that was enough.
    and since this post has to do with gary snyder, i thought i would mention that i'm slowly reading the practice of the wild because of you. i read it with my highlighter :D

    take care friend!

  4. Amen :) I've been feeling especially inspired and hopeful lately, and I love the idea of a joyful reminder-- a "spiritual post-it note"-- just awesome! And come on, and outfit post AND kitty in the wild? It doesn't get much better than that:) Happy weekend Milla!

  5. "Honor this priceless natural treasure
    Concealed in five shadows, sunk deep in the flesh."

    Love it. Love your everything interpretation of your seven chosen words. Love you, my sister of the moon and stars. Love your outfit too... the significance of Anne's sister's necklace and your words on trying and her words on trying and how it's all interwoven here in this place so strangely tangible and strangely not, where our paths up the mountain converge from time to time. Often just when we need them to :)

    Speaking of words that hit us deep in our hearts, I've been spending some quality time with one Ralph Waldo Emerson lately. His essays on Nature, Spirit, Religion, Worship... all feeding my soul in that way that calms its very core. Printed words illuminating truths that have always been within. I know you know what I mean ;)

  6. mmm, from your words and tone i sense you have made the seasonal transition. the "buckle your seatbelt" sign is still lit on my airplane, but this post and your beauty, inside and out, are like the beacon lights of an airtraffic here! land here! thank you.

    your tattoo is simple and profound...perfect complexity. i don't know these poems and am intrigued to seek them out.

    love to you in the golden harvest sun, love to the fawns, may they make the transition too and thank you for shining your own love light for us to see. xo

  7. "You just have to try". Amen! Thanks so much for sharing your lovely light. Bright blessings.

  8. yer perty. and all glowy and tan. love the shirt. love the new tats. excellent choice of font for the quote. i'm disappointed you didn't choose "i like big butts and i can not lie" but i'll get over it. and omg! baby deer! so cute.

  9. BABY DIR!!!!

    you gorgeous spirit. i love you always, even from far away when i feel lost in hot sunny days and endless dirt, even when i am driving long and far on california freeways between cities. endless love.

  10. milla, this is such a lovely post, so full of sincerity. i love the words about "trying"... those few words say so very much.. that religious, spiritual seeking is just that. trying.. :) reading that and saying that puts a smile on my face. :) this is a beautiful post with beautiful pictures and beautiful sweet animals. :):)

  11. So great to see you here wearing your summer tan (and new tats!!) like a goddess. Your letter was the perfect preview of autumn descending on the Island, and I could almost taste the berries. I'm glad you're getting your much needed respite from the summah mayhem y'all just endured.

    Also, are the cats finally getting along? I think I see a little kitty conference going on. A meeting of the feline minds, surely plotting to take down those fawns like the true tigers they are.

    Your unfinished tattoo reminds me of the one I'll be getting around the top of my left forearm -- little moons, all in a row and all in various states of "full." j

    As for the other... every time I read it, I do so in Snyder's voice, and it makes my stomach tingle. So perfect for you.


  12. Beautiful. The deer, the tattoos, you.

  13. Sometimes a woman just needs to catch a glimpse of restful inspiration so that the world might feel alright again, today that woman is me! So glad I visited you here today, I read your words, exhaled without worry and my shoulders released all of their tension. I want you to write a book of your musings, mkay. So that I may treasure it and read little pieces each night to nod along with your wise words and honest gleamings. Love you. You look cute in your skirt, top and what a beautiful necklace! Nice tatts too.

  14. These are beautiful words, photographs, tattoos, light. Ah.