Mountain Bell at Dawn

I have been living at a Buddhist monastery for the past 8 months, and am feeling ready to update this blog again, at least once in a while. 🙂

The other day I accompanied the sisters who I am on rotation with to ring the big bell at 5 am, which one of the sisters rings each morning to wake everyone up at the monastery in time for sitting meditation. 

It was a beautiful and even profound experience for me, one of the reasons being that I sat on the deck very close to the bell, as Sr. Phú Nghiêm sounded it with something I can only describe as a battering ram. The bell is about five feet tall and perhaps four feet in diameter, with a sonorous voice which carries quite far. I could feel my entire body vibrate with each sounding of the bell, and tears were streaming down my face for reasons I couldn’t describe.

Later that day I wrote this poem, and wanted to share it with you:

Great Mountain Bell

The moon sees
through hundreds of leaves
movement on every tiny flower.
The eucalyptus tree
feels the throbbing hum
of wild honeybees.
The ground receives
the white petals drifting
like sand slowly sifting
to the bottom of the sea.
These ears hear the bell
calling over the mountaintop
responding to each touch
of the battering ram
with a soft thunder.
This body resonates deeply
bones shuddering
with each sounding.
These eyes fill with tears
not knowing why they cry
as they look over the hushed community
of wild buckwheat and peppertrees
sage brush and yucca leaves
casting moon shadows
over furtive rabbits
and lizards sleeping in dusty hollows.
Life resonates deeply
through the lungs
of the coyotes.
The bell tolls
the wild dogs howl.
And these feet walk slowly
with nowhere to go
and no one to become.



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