I am walking my three month old pup Eyowyn, on a circular concrete path, around the old haunted hospital, toward the capitol. A smoky fog is rising up the avenues. It’s late February and Salt Lake’s winter is starting to give ground to signs of spring. I see the green tip of a Crocus that has broken the surface and a Robin, standing tall on a branch, now out of hiding. Plenty of snow can still fly but the temperatures are coming off their lows and the day’s end in lengthy sundowns.
From up above the narrow dirt roads of City Creek Canyon, I see the road that runs down from Capitol Hill between the San Francisco-like hills of the Marmalade District and through the Eagle Pass to the downtown. West, past the Capitol, the Oquirrh Mountains, still white, rear up from the flatness of the Salt Lake standing out towards Tooele which sits on its Western reach. The fog fades the lines of the mountains and the lake, fades the clarity, or is it the obscurity, of separation.
It has been a long winter. I get up each day at five a.m., huddle into my car and drive to the meditation hall, the Zendo. I cruise down Eleventh Avenue past the cemetery and a large mausoleum. Stars are still out and the mausoleum and its grounds lit by floodlights, claim center stage, overshadowing the early lights of the city. The car’s heater starts to cut the cold. Early morning runners dressed in bright colors emerge from the dark, under the Wasatch peaks.
Growing up in the Bronx, my father would speak to me about “where I was going with my life.” When I was 16 years old he instituted a reading program for me. For the duration of one hour each day I would be situated on a chair, covered in plastic slipcovers, in plain view. The syllabus consisted of sturdy classic literature with a leaning toward the elaborate Russian dramas. I spent allot of time remembering which character with a many syllabled Russian name had done what to another character with a frustratingly similar name – and so he shot his brother? – his mother? a third cousin thought to be lost in the Crimean War? But then I found some books of Zen Buddhist writing and my father, a sometimes-liberal thinker, approved them.
I read those old books in my over-heated room, cramped in bed, in my parent’s Bronx apartment. I found the Heart Sutra, or the Hsin Hsin Ming, D.T Suzuki, The Mumonkan Koans at my local library. In the dark, I’d follow their pointers, try their truths on. They said listen to the sermon outside my window, the preaching of the insentient – and I did. I let my mind fill the empty lots outside my window, the street full of cans and rubble, flattened cigarette packs, illegible pages of newspaper – the landscape of the Great Way.
A Monk asked Joshu “What is the way to the capitol (The great Way)?” Josh said “East, West, North, South.”
The houses around the haunted hospital are ornate, exclamatory, built, to last, like it or not. An easy, drizzling snow is falling. The weather’s been like this for a while. As I round the turn on Penny Parade I see the whole of Salt Lake City below me. The lines of the streets and lamps unclear in the fog, turned black grey and white – like a brush painting.
Eyowyn and I go around the side of our house and I open the gate to our yard. She takes off. Caryn and I live in a nice old spacious place. It’s rustic and imperfect. Caryn says it’s a dream she is enjoying having. The parching Utah sun is affirming that by crumbling the houses paint and wood. But now the decks and the yard are covered in snow, will soon yield flowers, cherries, vegetables and plums and then they won’t.
The house is set high up. A friend called it an Eagle’s nest. The magpies and scrub jays are eating the orange berries daily now. More proof of my spring coming theory but then my spring theories begin in January.
Up on the hills near the our house we’ve seen moose, deer, skunk and once a family of Foxes migrating through a tennis court where they often find food then return to their home in the cemetery.
The way goes in and out of view. At times it goes right by my house and over towards the old haunted hospital then up towards the capitol. A lazy wet snow falls on it. Spring never comes. Walking on the Way to the Capitol is the family of old sages, rootless poets, the laughing Han Shans up on Cold mountain – the rivers, rocks and foxes who have abided in it, for all time, walking in place, complete in their realization.