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Lions Roar : November 2013
One Ordinary Day BY CHRISTIAN MCEWEN This past June I was teaching on Tanera Mor, a tiny island off the coast of Scotland. One quiet afternoon, I made my way to a small hummocky islet, looking out across two bright-eyed lochans, and settled back against a lichen- covered rock. For more than an hour I did precisely noth- ing. Gulls swooped and squabbled overhead. The scent of bog myrtle carried on the breeze. A cuckoo called—once, twice!—across the hill. I follow an eclectic spiritual path. But ever since I was a child, I’ve practiced what I call “placefulness,” a sense-based meditation drawn from one specific place. There is no question that Buddhist practice has helped me with this. That day on Tanera, I let my eye wander and my ear too, moment after moment unfurling with gentle authority. Even in that most perfect of places, on that most perfect of days, it wasn’t easy to stay present. So I began to sketch a little poem in honor of the island, eager to pay witness to each passing moment, to register the subtlest and most minuscule of changes. It was mindfulness entwined with placefulness. Looking, listening, listening out. The record of one ordinary day. Wind blows the grasses, and the grasses tremble the heather yields and crunches underfoot tadpoles idle in the peaty shallows a black sheep tears its fleece against a fence one gull dabbles the bright surface of the water another one swoops in from far away a collared dove calls coo, roo-coo, roo-coo! a piece of sandstone flakes off in the sun ripples spread and glitter like a starry net the lochan shifts from black to radiant blue I sat for a while with the scrawled piece of paper in my lap. And then I found myself another rock, another watch- ing-post, and began to sit again. CHRISTIAN MCEWEN is the author of World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down and coeditor of the anthology The Alphabet of the Trees: A Guide to Nature Writing. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 52