Finding the Space in the Heart By Gary Snyder

Finding the Space in the Heart

                                                    ImageBy Gary Snyder

I first saw it in the sixties,

driving a Volkswagen camper

with a fierce gay poet and a

lovely but dangerous girl with a husky voice,

we came down from Canada

on the dry east side of the ranges. Grand Coulee, Blue

Mountains, lava flow caves,

the Alvord desert—pronghorn ranges—

and the glittering obsidian-paved

dirt track toward Vya,

seldom-seen roads late September and

thick frost at dawn; then

follow a canyon and suddenly open to

          silvery flats that curved over the edge

          O, ah! The

          awareness of emptiness

          brings forth a heart of compassion!

We followed the rim of the playa

to a bar where the roads end

and over a pass into Pyramid Lake

from the Smoke Creek side,

by the ranches of wizards

who follow the tipi path.

The next day we reached San Francisco

in a time when it seemed

the world might head a new way.

And again, in the seventies, back from

Montana, I recklessly pulled off the highway

took a dirt track onto the flats,

got stuck—scared the kids—slept the night,

and the next day sucked free and went on.

Fifteen years passed. In the eighties

With my lover I went where the roads end.

Walked the hills for a day,

looked out where it all drops away,

discovered a path

of carved stone inscriptions tucked into the sagebrush

          “Stomp out greed”

          “The best things in life are not things”

words placed by an old desert sage.

Faint shorelines seen high on these slopes,

long gone Lake Lahontan,

cutthroat trout spirit in silt—

Columbian Mammoth bones

four hundred feet up on the wave-etched

          beach ledge; curly-horned

                    desert sheep outlines pecked into the rock,

and turned the truck onto the playa

heading for know-not,

bone-gray dust boiling and billowing,

mile after mile, trackless and featureless,

let the car coast to a halt

on the crazed cracked

flat hard face where

winter snow spirals, and

summer sun bakes like a kiln.

Off nowhere, to be or not be,

          all equal, far reaches, no bounds.

          Sound swallowed away       

          no waters, no mountains, no

          bush no grass and

                    because no grass

          no shade but your shadow.

          No flatness because no not-flatness.

          No loss, no gain. So—

          nothing in the way!

          —the ground is the sky

          the sky is the ground,

          no place between, just

          wind-whip breeze,

          tent-mouth leeward,

          time being here.

          We meet heart to heart,

          leg hard-twined to leg,

                    with a kiss that goes to the bone.

          Dawn sun comes straight in the eye. The tooth

          of a far peak called King Lear.

Now in the nineties desert night

          —my lover’s my wife—

old friends, old trucks, drawn around;

great arcs of kids on bikes out there in darkness

          no lights—just planet Venus glinting

by the calyx crescent moon,

and tasting grasshoppers roasted in a pan.

          They all somehow swarm down here—

          sons and daughters in the circle

          eating grasshoppers grimacing,

singing sūtras for the insects in the wilderness,

—the wideness, the

foolish loving spaces

full of heart.

          Walking on walking,

                    under foot   earth turns

          Streams and mountains never stay the same.

                              The space goes on.

                              But the wet black brush

                              tip drawn to a point,

                                       lifts away.

                                                            Marin-an 1956—Kitkitdizze 1996

Gary Snyder, “Finding the Space in the Heart” from Mountains and Rivers Without End. Copyright © 2008 by Gary Snyder. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint Press.

Source: Mountains and Rivers Without End (Counterpoint Press, 2008)

Enso by T. Steve Mushin CrismanImage


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