Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Oh Western Wind!

Westron wynde, when wyll thow blow

The smalle rayne downe can rayne?

Cryst yf my love were in my armys,

And I yn my bed agayne!

--Anonymous (16th centruy)

Last night the wind howled everywhere around the Temple, moving trees and downing branches.  The wind chill temperature reached down to -20 F (-30 C).  When the power went out briefly around midnight and then returned, the energy surge rang the doorbell and made all the appliances that beep make their small insistent sounds.  

My thoughts, as I tried to get back to sleep, drifted back to seeing my first Zen teacher, during a similar late winter windstorm at a sesshin, out on the porch that surrounded the zendo.  He was standing still, looking out over the forest that surrounded the little temple that we had rented for the retreat.  I went out to stand next to him, and we stayed that way for a while.  As he left, he whispered the poem that begins this writing, but in modern English:  "Oh Western Wind, when will you blow, the small rain down can rain?  Christ if my live were in my arms and I in my bed again."  

It's a poem of longing, for the western wind to blow winter away, to bring the spring rains, to return to the intimacy of the comfort of a companion and a warm bed.  I don't really know what my teacher, now long dead, was thinking, but I remember that moment vividly in my own heart, as an expression of the power of a strong wind to blow away whatever must go -- not just in the natural world, where we can feel the power of a winter wind, but also in our minds and hearts, burdened by distress and sorrow.  

Ultimately, everything must go, even this season of uncertainty that envelopes the planet.  What will come next?  For now, we trust that it will be spring soon, but beyond that, who knows?