A View from the Top
The Zen of the Zen Garden


Gordon Cherr, 


Sitting in the Zen Garden. The birds are full of life. They dash to and fro, seemingly without a care in the world. Bright red, deep yellow, white on black, a male bluebird with a blue head and back contrasted against a chestnut brown breast. Saw a big brown hawk here this morning. Just sitting.

Things are sprouting here. Things that I have no idea how they got here. A vine which produced some still undetermined melons last year. And I can see the bee balm all over the garden floor. It bloomed last year. It must have come in with some leaves or grass clippings I wrangled from some stranger’s driveway. I suppose someone thought it dead. Hardly. It blooms a beautiful red, it is a bee and butterfly magnet, it has an odd, to me indescribable, aroma that I find very attractive too. Bitter perhaps. I don’t know.

No, the bee balm wasn’t dead. Or maybe it was but isn’t that just part of a greater continuum? No life without death. No death without life. This is sitting heavily on my heart right now as I watch a bright yellow sulfur butterfly bounce past my head. Bright yellow against a deep blue sky, against a deep green leafy canopy above me.

We lost 4 friends this week. Four…A wonderful musician who gave freely of his time and talents to charitable causes in need. A lawyer friend, she had a BS, an MS, a Ph. D, a J.D. Too much education and what for? For the children she tirelessly campaigned for in my court and in others. She appreciated learning simply for the sake of learning. A runner who started a grassroots school here from nothing. An educator of children, largely underpaid if paid at all. In the material sense. Rich beyond belief if you count the many children he sought to help to rise above. Another runner I knew only from emails and telephone conversations from the west coast. A photographer and an author of uncommon talent. I should say of mature understanding. He valued nature as a friend, he tried to understand and convey its subtle and obvious intricacies, he and his wife traveled the world, writing of their adventures, running, hiking, cooking, but most of all, deeply appreciating and loving one another.

The one thing among others that these people all shared with us. Loving one another.

Well, I put out hummingbird feeders for no reason at all. It once was hypothecated that if they stayed here over the winter they would die, so they migrate away. More recently someone found out that some hummingbirds actually appear to overwinter here. They don’t die. They persist. I don’t know if they love others or anything else, Maybe…

Deep in my funk, I went out for a run this morning. Isn’t that what runners do? I don’t know. I did. I ran trails through the forest. I looked at many trees knocked over and even uprooted by recent tornadoes here. Despite their death, new life will assert itself below the cleared out canopy.

Last week on this same trail I tripped over a vine that caught my ankle. I fell hard, the breath forcefully knocked from my lungs. I laid there for a while. You know that asthma commercial where the goldfish is out of the water just laying there trying to breathe? I hate that little scene of torture. That was it for a short while wondering if I would ever breath again. Then, I sat up for a while. The sky was still blue, the clouds were still white, the leaves were still green. I tasted the new air in my lungs. It was fresh and clean. Forest birds were singing. The earth was still spinning on its axis.

I miss my friends. I feel a hole in my heart. I have to close it.

I really don’t know a damn thing about a damn thing after 67 years.

Except I know of the love in my home and of the peace and life in our Zen Garden. Let’s hang on to each other. Hug your loved ones right now. This may be all there is.

I can live with that.