Thursday, June 16, 2005

Fifty Acres

A while ago I was reading Circling the Sacred Mountain. Robert Thurman was talking about the Tibetan yogic visions of nirvana, where Buddha and his consort are making cosmic love in the four-sided temple of heaven, and the walls are made of sapphire and other precious elements. He was suggesting to his tribe of Kailash pilgrims that when they found themselves in an unbearably mundane or negative situation (I immediately thought of my fishbowl here at work), they visualize the temple in their minds, creating the Kailash heaven to co-exist with the temporal reality. I could certainly do the visualization (lack of imagination has never been a problem with me). But I didn’t connect with it much. I sit here at work and I sometimes lay that image over the QC Lab, but it doesn’t help nurture compassion.

So I started wondering what, then, my version of heaven would be like. What images would conjure the sense of peace and happiness that I would want to experience (and that I would want others to experience), given the chance for heaven? It didn’t take much to imagine – but then I got sidetracked by trying to make it too real, figuring out (obsessively, of course) how to really set up it on earth, and I started to lose the qualities I so enjoyed about the daydream, this fantasy of heaven. Didn’t take much to bring it back. Wanted to share.


I dream of fifty acres, green with summer growth. I dream of a quiet valley, rocked to sleep in the afternoon by the buzz of flying insects, jolted awake in the evening by the screaming laughter of children playing. Narrow dirt paths run through this land, and going down any one of them you have a good chance of meeting nirvana.

A woman bends over a row in the garden, her hands red with the juice of the berries she’s picking. There are telltale red stains on her lips and chin, too.

A man leans into the engine block of a truck, his arms elbow deep in grease, the sweat of his efforts darkening the collar of his shirt.

A woman is kicked back in a beach chair, her feet dangling in a small pond, a glass of sweet tea by her side, a thick, well-read book in her hands. She nods at you and grins as you pass by.

A man plays tag with a small child, her white-blonde hair blowing fuzzy in the breeze, her hysterical laughter echoing down all the other paths.

A house set back from the path has all its windows thrown open to the cooling evening air. Through the windows, you can see a woman sitting at an upright piano. A pencil is balanced precariously on her ear, her bottom lip is trapped in concentration, and a sheet of staff paper is half-completed in front of her, blowing occasionally in the breeze coming through the house. A small cat, its fur a patchwork of at least five different species, is curled in the corner chair, grooming herself. In the kitchen, a large bowl sits on the counter wearing a damp blue-and white checked towel, full of rising bread almost ready to be punched down.

A white pavilion sits alone in a green field. Three figures stand beneath it. Even from where you are, you can hear them singing, and the sound is like a bell, ringing shivers through your body.

A bright, stainless-steel grill is tucked around a corner. It’s been going for several hours, the smell of just-about-ready barbeque ribs occasionally wafting over the acreage. Its tender, a man with an eternally cold beer in his hand, sits on a worn-out picnic table nearby, picking on a guitar.

A woman sits at an easel, sketching all these little heavens, her fingers lightly dusted with colored chalk.

The smell of growing things is all around. (Go ahead and sneeze, I know you need to.) There’s honeysuckle and lilac growing by the garden. Wild roses surround the little pond. Orange lilies and bright pink verbena, colors you never thought you’d find in nature, line the narrow path. Mountains hover not so far away, their silhouettes softly painted against the horizon, their lines gentle and feminine.

You can come to this valley and rest. You can come here and work. You can come here to create – pie, music, art, words, whatever. We’re not picky. Or grab an axe and cut some wood for the fire later on. Just come on in and stay a while. It looks like you could use a break from samsara for a while.

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