May 11, 2008

Windhorse in Wisconsin

This is not Vajra land. This is Samadhi land. It holds its secrets close. Passing through, you might mistake it, think you know it, and never look into the smiling face of this land.

The rolling fields team with green grass over gentle swells, like small waves in a calm pool. Here are there brambles hide old rubble walls of stacked stone, now long fallen to ruin. These are not the sharp edged quarry stones, but smooth and rounded like river rock. It was no rushing river nor babbling brook which polished them so, but the millennial movement of glaciers, thousands of years ago. The glaciers carved and then polished this land, leaving gentle pockets of prairie amidst cool forested moraines, secret springs and seeps, and fens where the frogs sing the night into being.

Everywhere there are the signs of people – the old stone walls, barbed wire fences which long ago ceased to fence anything in or out, remainders of cut wood, a few stacked rocks marking a trail now long gone, wheel tracks across the dales, and clearings in the forest once again overgrown or blocked with deadfalls. The land slowly, and without fuss, reclaiming what always belonged to it.

Just so, happily and without fuss, it allows people to dwell here. People build houses and barns and outbuildings. They pave roads and erect telephone poles, set survey markers, and rebuild the wire fences. They till the soil and plant vegetables, and bring cattle and horses to range in the meadows. They brave harsh winters and hot summers and a lucky few might just begin to understand the secrets of the land, and find Samadhi here.

And the wind laughs at them. It has been here long before they came and will continue long after they have gone. It is a playful wind, now gentle, then strong. It is not a deafening wind, a drowning wind. Rather it delights in what it finds and carries sounds for miles – a car passing, the bark of a dog, a tractor tilling a field, a hammer on wood, birds calling, crickets and frogs.

Here and there, if you look for them, you can find an aspen grove. These are sacred trees – trees which have learned how to listen to the wind – trees which have learned how to watch the land with dark eyes on pale trunks – trees which have learned how to talk. Aspens never grow by themselves. One will never find a lone aspen tree, majestic on the crown of a hill. No, they grown in families and groups, along the seeps and swales, amidst the other trees.

In spring, there leaves come out as bright citron green, greener than the newest apple, touched with gold by the sunshine. Soon after they start to talk, rattling and rustling, like the very first wind chimes ever made. They hide among the other trees on the edges of the forest, where there is yet light to smile upon them.

Further into the darkened canopy, little white flowers grow, a single three petal blossom on the forest floor. Vines twist up from the ground, thick and branchlike, and ride the towering trees. Deadfalls clutter the ground. In places they seem to mark trails, all fallen together in one direction or another, twisting along the forest floor like driftwood washed up on the beach. Where the ground becomes muddy and water flows, giant cabbage like plants cover the shady ground, each blade like leaf larger than a lumberjack’s hand. Deer trails, their sharp prints deep in the soft earth, provide the only passage through such places. Birds and frogs and crickets abound and here a hair startles from its hiding place and a crow calls out overhead.

There should be others here. One can feel the ghosts of bears, wolves, cougars, moose, and elk walking beside, just out of the corner of the eye. They have long since been driven off by the people who now claim this land. It is a rich land and they should be here and perhaps they could one day again, when man has grown up and learned how to share.

Emerging from the protective enclave of trees, one feels the sun again, and the wind. Out on the open fields there is no shelter from its touch, now gentle in the warmth of spring, but once stinging in the grip of winter not long past and certainly not forgotten. On the hill, one can look out and see the land continuing on in gentle rolls and swells, here forest on the slopes and fens, their fields on the smoother open land. Here and there it is cut by roads and dotted with giant red barns, small yellow stone and brick houses, and tall blue silos.

And in one particular spot, a solemn weathered green Buddha sits, on blocks of wood, where red tulips grow, before a house with great south facing windows and a bright red door. Welcome to Windhorse.


I went walking in the late afternoon light, at that time when the sun is still warm and golden and the shadows long and lengthening. It is as though the sky winks at us, promising night’s mysteries soon at hand, but still smiling.

I walked in the forest, where the dark trunks made lines upon the blue sky and their shadows made lines upon the brown earth, at a time when spring has just touched the land and the trees still lay bare with promise. White flowers bloomed, three sharp green leaves, three soft white petals apiece, a single plant, perfection with a bowed head.

I followed a vanishing trail along the ridges and around the valleys. I came to the edge of the wood where a farm stood, greenhouse frames still empty, tilled earth rich and dark, barn and outbuildings bright, glowing red with shiny silver roofs. I heard children laughing and calling, a tractor growling, dogs barking. Then as the trail lost itself completely, I heard hooves pounding the earth. As my footsteps crunched in dry leaves and snapped dead twigs, from the edge of the forest two horses ran across their small pasture, flashes of black and gold through the trees.

I could see people now, small people and big people and four footed people trailing along in their wake, dogs and cats alike. A girl came running to the edge of the pasture, in a denim skirt and argyle socks in black and white and red. Her blonde hair was unbound. She squeezed through the fence and called out in the high voice of a child not yet a woman. Two sturdy ponies came to greet her. One was black with white markings on mane and tail, forehead and fetlock. He was content to follow her, happy in her running, laughing company. The other was buckskin and blonde, with shimmering mane and shaggy feet. He ran like the wind in the grass, around and around the other two, kicking his heals this way and that.

I stood in the forest and watched the girl running with the horses. I listed as other children called out and dogs barked and as the beat of hooves rang the earth. I was tall and thin and silent like the trees and I knew she did not know that I watched as she made magic. The horses knew, I think, in the ways that horses do. I stood watching in the stirring breeze and lowering sun and after a while I turned to go.

The girl still ran with the horses as I climbed the hill in the forest, the hill which would take me back to Windhorse.

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