A meditation on higher freedoms


Photo courtesy of Pexels

Jampa Dorje, Guest Columnist

Between University Avenue and E.7th Street and between Samson and Walnut, in Ellensburg, there’s some wild Nature—not exactly Wilderness—but a patch of land left alone and gone to seed.  The trail is about seventy paces, along the edge of a creek.  A piece of cardboard in the bushes gives me a dry place to sit on the dewy grasses.  I’ve brought food from Safeway’s deli, and my plan is to step off the grid for an hour and find solitude.   

My first urge is to start naming the plants and animals. Even put in the Latin, Pseudotsuga menziesii, but to get in contact with the nature of mind within the nature of reality, naming things isn’t going to get me there. I must go beyond the tree and the forest to where there is no perceiver or perceived, just for an inconceivably wondrous instant.                     

A few lines of Wordsworth’s come to me from “The World Is Too Much With Us”:   

The world is too much with us, late and soon, 

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours… 

And these meters lead me to appreciate the gap that exists between people living in society and what it is like to live alone in the woods.  I’m making a concerted effort to step out of my “city life” mindset and be still.     

Reecer Creek, emerging from under the pavement, makes a couple of dramatic bends through this part of town.  By slightly turning my head, I can see a landscape without any man-made objects.  There is a mix of birch saplings and older, gnarly cottonwoods on the north shore, a few young pines, maybe a sub-species of Pinus Ponderossa, to the south.  One large standing tree, an evergreen, standing there before this area was a park, maybe standing in the front yard of a farmhouse, with the trail being here when the Psch-wan-wap-pams lived here (www.co.kittitas.wa.us/about/history.asp). Anyway, the tree’s branches have provided shade for a long time. 

Sitting on my sheet of cardboard, I make a tsog offering—a Tibetan Tantric feast, where one is blessed in a sea of senses—sight, sound, touch, taste—all tastes as one taste—the crunch of coleslaw, the saltiness of ham, and the sweetness of berry pie—the rush of the water, the verdure of the foliage, the limpid blue sky.  A male mallard duck flying through! My eyes follow its path, the hunter in me taking aim, —and the drone of construction sounds in the background becomes that of furiously flapping wings.    

Deep memory follows a beaten path, and my feet lead the way. I’m up for an adventure.   I have on a couple of sweaters to shield me from the gusts of frigid air passing through the trees.  The density of the undergrowth increases, and the bushes snag my clothes.  And then, I come upon a renegade shrine to a dead teenager, a memorial tree covered with friendship ornaments—a tree with a plaque that says, “Wish You Were Here,” and I think, “Lucky, to be here now,”—but how cross the creek in the marsh? As I approach the upended root structure of one of the trees that bridge the creek, a tangle of wings, powerfully rising from the reeds, disturbs the air. I am prepared for another mallard—see lots of them along the Ganges, on campus—but not a Great Blue Herron!  Escaping the entanglement of Nature, I cross the log and set foot on concrete, still trembling from the excitement of my encounters.  Across from me is Vinman’s Bakery. . . and I’m beginning to sense freshly baked croissants. . . and, voila, I’ve returned to the predictability of the grid.