One day Changsha went for a walk in the mountains.
When he returned to the temple gate someone asked, “Where have you been?”
Changsha said, “Wandering about the hills. I went out following the scented grass and came back chasing the falling blossoms.” – Blue Cliff Record #36
When I got dose #1 of the vaccine, (you know which one I’m talking about!) I had the sense of stepping into a new world. My footfall on the drugstore linoleum was so distinct, I fell in love with the half-empty shelves and fluorescent lights.
The year prior, at the start of Covid, I’d had a similar thrill of newness, when I was called (out of the blue) to collect my daughter and move her out of her college dorm. That evening I fell in love with the coyote and band of turkeys wandering on the empty campus green. For a whole year I felt at home in the slow pace and peaceful rooms, and in the glorious wind and trees above Berkeley.
The world had stopped suddenly, and just as suddenly my life started to move quickly after dose #2. Days went from a peaceful grace to feeling more burdened again. This second walk through the drugstore was accompanied by a rising melancholy. My thoughts were folding in on themselves: “The gears are grinding again, the world is rushing and half insane, my kid has just left home.” What now?
Changsha entered my mind. What if I could dare to wander in this melancholy—if that’s what it is—like Changsha, just for the sake of it? I like the feeling that arises imagining his state of mind; to be wandering with so much grace, to just set out, to be such a one freely inhabiting their place in the world.
What is it like to begin wandering when the mood of the moment is unpromising? What initiates the wandering? Just to share these words with you encourages me to take a step in the general direction of these hills.