This humorous, well-written post takes a number of twists and turns on the subject of attachment. I hope you enjoy it – we did. – Doen

A Spring Walk, Attached

Daniel spoke recently about attachment.  He said that when many people begin studying Zen, they misunderstand attachment and think it means we’re not supposed to care about things.  Especially “things” like Jaguars, or huge diamond rings, or yachts.  He explained attachment this way:  it’s fine if you own a Jaguar that you enjoy, that you can afford, and that doesn’t cause you problems in other aspects of your life.  If, however, a rock chip on the windshield of your Jaguar prevents you from being in the present, that’s attachment.
So does this mean that when I stroll down my lane with a glass of lemonade on a lovely spring evening to pick up my mail — and immediately become irritated that the local gym has sent another advertisement showing a woman gleefully contracting her shiny flat abs, and I start to ruminate about what a waste of paper this is and why do we always have to think about our abs — is this attachment?  And if so, is it attachment to the trees wasted in the ad, or to the glistening abs?  Or am I attached to my disdain?
Being on the topic of wasted trees made me dart a glance at the Zelkova tree that I so adored when I planted it three years ago.  It certainly has grown rather spindly and disappointing in its habit.  I wade through the brush sloshing my lemonade about and drop the mail on the ground in order to test some of the twigs to see if they’re dead or alive.  Mostly alive, but not very vigorous.  Then with a scowl:  “Were those caterpillars that were eating the leaves last spring?  I may have to consider spraying it this year though it goes against my principals.  I’m clearly attached to organic gardening principals but that’s good, right?  Why I planted this Zelkova here amongst the oregon grapeholly bushes is a mystery to me.”  (I yank at a few of them.)  “You can’t even see it from the lane anymore for all the bracken that has grown up around it.  Why don’t the caterpillars eat the bracken?  These woods are going to want a major trimming this year, but not until after the wood hyacinth are finished blooming because we’ll just crush all of them if we start dragging limbs around.”  This makes me remember the tree butchers we hired one year who mistook my fernleaf beech for a bloodtwig dogwood and hacked several feet off the top.  I can only just now look at that beech without getting pissed.
I suppose one could make a case that I’m attached to the trees I’ve planted, but don’t they give me so much pleasure?
I begin gathering up the mail with the abs model and, in a bit of disgust for my poor placement of the Zelkova and for garden help in general, I shiver and notice that although it is a fine spring evening, it’s still a bit chilly and not at all suitable for sitting outside this weekend when our friends come to dinner.  I had really looked forward to sitting outside; it won’t be nearly as festive inside, and I suppose this is what Daniel calls attachment.
When I finally got back to the house to read the mail after pausing to inspect the bird feeders — why are they so messy? — I see that my lemonade, which was just perfect at the start of the lovely spring evening, has now become watery and flavorless.  A little vodka and mint is what it needs, but the mint isn’t up yet.
Surely I’m not attached to mint.

Photo by Dead Air
Redbud Tree

Redbud Tree

snow and buds
Daniel talked recently about actively “not knowing” what you are going to experience before you experience it. Don’t imagine you know what a Mormon temple looks like inside. Don’t imagine you know what a forsythia branch looks like in bloom. Go and take it in as if you’ve never seen one before.
This reminded me of a poem I have recited to myself every spring for the 20 years I’ve lived down a wooded lane. After months of snow, I’m so eager for the blossoms to emerge on the redbud tree. But what happens instead is a snowstorm, which threatens to dampen my spirits. After I remember this poem though, I go down the lane to see what surprises nature may have brought overnight. I’m glad I’ve been doing this for 20 years because, at 56 years old, I may have only thirty springs remaining to see the redbud tree in bloom.
Lovliest of Trees

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

A. E. Houseman

Photo by camra_art