By KM Huber
I grew up in a high plains desert where rivers rush, streams gush. Ponds are few. In the Rocky Mountain West, water is on the go, impermanence on the fly.
Now, my home is the meandering rivers and ponds of the Florida panhandle, subtropical lushness. That both the West and South offer life opportunity opposites—mile high to sea level—once occupied much of my thought and time.
Then, it was location, location, location rather than living richly in my present. I spent years pooling unwanted waters for the future, trying to re-create past ponds.
I have come to know such futility as ponding. In nature, ponding is the pooling of unwanted waters. In being, ponding is the absence of mindfulness, the pooling of thought outside the present.
Mindfulness never works as an exercise in focus. This “exercise” is like casting about the past and future rather than “living richly in the present” (Sylvia Plath).
And Plath also reminds us that to live richly in the present is the “hardest thing” to do.
It takes a lifetime.
This past week I found myself at Chapman, a pond I once visited daily as my life in the South began. I missed the rush of water, having little consideration for the life that teems within a pond.
All that changed within the comfort of Chapman, contained under canopied, moss-draped oaks and towering Ponderosa pine. Daily, I focused on the peace I attributed to Chapman pond, unaware the peace was within me, always available.
Of course, I was ponding, unaware of my life as I was living it, pooling up thoughts, the unwanted waters of my past and future.
I was fishing, a practice I began in childhood.
Always, I searched any and all waters to see if they supported fish. I had to know. Fishing would occupy me for decades. I practiced consistently.
As I aged, casting a line with no hook replaced catching a fish. With each cast, I did my best to imitate a fly afloat to tease a fish.
Whenever I went fishing, I was living richly, completely confined to the cast of the moment. Perhaps it was the beginning of a mindfulness practice; perhaps, it was just fishing.
I gained a sense of the tide of time, the fisher and the fished, impermanence at its best.
There was no ponding, no thoughts of bigger or lesser fish or even the one that got away—only the energy of the experience, the sensation that never stays.
I have not owned a rod and reel in years but still I fish.
KM Huber is a writer who learned Zen from a beagle. She believes the moment is all we ever have, and it is enough. In her early life as a hippie, she practiced poetry, and although her middle years were a bit of a muddle, she remains an overtly optimistic sexagenerian, writing prose. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, she blogs at kmhubersblog.com, may be followed on Twitter @KM_Huber or contacted by email at writetotheranch[at]gmail[dot]com.
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