author of the oarsman
Walking The Spine
May 11, 2016

I walked Oso Ridge trail this morning, surrounded by warm air, solitude, and swaying fields of dried grass. The sun welcomed me back to its gentle presence, missing me after days of clouds.

I looked at the stamps of boots and shoes all over the dusty trails, hoping an animal track might jump out.

I pondered about the mind, and the thoughts which seem to always return.

Were thoughts like these footprints, leaving permanent marks?

No. It was beautiful to see in the moment, as the pondering itself came and went, that thoughts leave nothing so obvious.

I then looked to the scurrying ants and racing lizards. Were thoughts like them? They were light enough to barely leave a trace in the dry and dusty ground.

Silence was the only thing pure enough to carry in an answer. I saw that, in the space of who I am now, no thought has ever left a trace. They come and go cleanly. The only ruts, habits and trenches were dug out as a child. Thoughts from those years have sometimes beautifully, and sometimes cruelly, left powerful imprints.

A swarm of overly friendly and equally annoying gnats met me as I went further up. They must’ve had a bet to see who could fly up my nose first. Unfortunately, the sole winner never survived to brag about it to his friends.

The breeze that fanned them away also brushed aside my annoyance. I was back to being as clear as the sky.

No, the best analogy is what teachers have said. Thoughts are like birds through the air. They leave no trace whatsoever.

As I continued uphill, walking the spine of the mountain, I felt like I was a lone, but precious, impulse from the heart to the brain of the planet.

And there was no separation. The emptiness of the sky was who I was, and I was also the mountain the body walked on, and also the lizards, ants and birds. Nothing could leave a trace, for nothing came and went. Nothing was thoughts.