close to the earth—intimacy
Scaled quail squabble and run together across dirt roads, making nests between small spaces. It’s a love affair. There seems to be genuine love between them, because they are each other. From here, it sounds like they talk the same language. The fact that they seem to know and prefer each other somehow says they are intimate, inseparable, moving with peace and harmony. Yet, as I observe this community of quail, I sense there’s another dimension to their togetherness. It isn’t because they are the same color or speak the same language. What I see is that they’re intimately tied together because they are fiercely connected to the land. They walk the land together. They talk, sing, and eat on the land. They create their homes from the tiniest amounts of grass and offerings of twigs and rocks. Imagine if they were not in relationship to the earth. Their lives would be chaos. The quail would not know where to go, who to trust, or how to live. They could not rely on each other. From the earth beneath their feet comes the intimacy between them. Their interconnection to the earth ensures their relationships with each other. Interdependence with the earth is complete intimacy.
I watch the quail move in step. Their necks push in and out. They scan the land, east and west. The afternoon sky darkens. The temperature is dropping. They know exactly where to go.
The earth is guiding the quail. They’re listening. They make room for each other as they hurry along. They are silent as the rain begins to fall on their heads.
The earth takes over and suddenly the cottonwoods that I have seen for months appear barer than before. They look just as soft as when they had leaves. It’s because I’ve grown intimate with them that I see their softness in the hard winter winds. I’ve noticed their shape and the dried grass that covers their feet.
The winter winds sing. The chattering in my head stops. It’s the earth that I love most of all. I’m so close to the earth in this moment, my only thoughts are of the rain, of the coming snow, of the mountain ranges spread from here to there. The only voice is the earth’s. Trouble is far behind.
I want to take off my shoes and bury my feet in the beloved earth but winter is coming and it’s too cold and the ground too hard. Winter is not the season for such a ritual. Instead, I wrap my body in a wool blanket. I look out on the open land. I am soothed by it. I can almost speak the language of the gathered clouds and hear the rivers running beneath the earth. If I were to walk outside at this very moment, in the winter cold, the depth of intimacy by which I live with the earth would be revealed. Do I still love it? Will I let it touch me? I tuck my feet further into the blanket.
The earth is everywhere. The simple willingness to be close to the earth will open ground for the deepest peace. In such peace the stars are not far away.
Stand still. Wind songs in the bitter cold will surface. The sweet tastes of life will come alive. Let the rain come down your mountain to your riverbed. Stand still. Distant bird song will take you across the sky to where the song is being sung.
The seasons come and go. The desert stays. The scaled quail wobble across the road. They eat seeds off the ground given to them by the neighbor. Bluebirds bathe nearby, and I imagine a bath for myself.
Excerpt (copyright 2020) by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel – From The Deepest Peace: Contemplations From A Season of Stillness