Before leaving town, I drove over to my friend’s house to say goodbye and thank her again for the paddleboard adventure. My memories duly recorded of a beautiful November afternoon, the sun warm on my face as we glided on Elkhorn Slough off Monterey Bay. The wind picked up in the afternoon, bringing a slight chill. The breeze also brought waves rocking the board, challenging my core. Only my second time out on the board, I was still learning to balance…still learning to trust my ability to dance gracefully on a fluid surface, keeping time with water’s rhythms. Dancing the cha-cha, badly, with the wind and the waves. But when I relaxed, letting my mind and body live in the moment, I walked on the water.
Dogen meditates in his Mountain and Water Sutra “all waters appear at the foot of the eastern mountains. Above all waters are all mountains. Walking beyond and walking within are both done on water. All mountains walk with their toes on all waters and splash there.”
My friend was in the garden, cutting a single white flower, a dietes, a wild iris, from her garden, to place among the blue iris, waiting in the vase on her table. It was a beautiful juxtaposition: backlit, the iris emerged from the darkness, well situated on the tablecloth, a spectrum of colors. The image cried out to be painted in oil, but I am a watercolorist. With limited experience in oil paints, I have no trust in my abilities, in my mind and body to work together, no confidence that I could walk on water.
Gary Snyder writes in his essay Blue Mountains Constantly Walking published in The Practice of the Wild “there’s all sorts of walking – from heading out across the desert in a straight line to a sinuous weaving through the undergrowth. Descending rocky ridges and talus slopes is a specialty in itself. It is an irregular dancing – always shifting – step or walk on slabs and scree. The breath and eye are always following this uneven rhythm…the alert eye looking ahead, picking the footholds to come, while never missing the step of the moment. The body-mind is so at one with this rough world that it makes these moves effortlessly once it has had a bit of practice.”
So, I just said, just dive in, walking on water will come…with practice, and really, the journey is all that really matters. Diving into the deep end starts the learning. So, I painted with oil, the iris emerging from the darkness, well situated on the tablecloth, a spectrum of colors. So, I say, trust your mind and body, and never forget, the darker the night, the brighter the stars.