10 October 2012

Giving the Moon

My daughter has among her books a wonderful volume called Zen Shorts*, which has modern takes on three short stories drawn from Zen Buddhist and Taoist literary tradition. I am quite fond of this book, and is she. In the book is a story called "Uncle Ry and the Moon". Tonight as I settled into a nice post-prandial bliss, some words from Uncle Ry floated up from the well of my mind, as I meditated on grace and gratitude.
"Poor man...All I had to give him was my tattered robe. If only I could have given him this wonderful moon."
Uncle Ry uttered those words as he sat upon that hill, missing his last robe that he gave to a thief in the night, and gazing upon the moon. In my recent adult years I have often felt, metaphorically speaking, like Uncle Ry: not having much to give, but wanting to share the beauty I see with others. That attitude is most assuredly a sea change for my emotional/spiritual/interior life, the one I flounder in far too often.

His words came back to me at the end of a very fine meal, that I thoroughly enjoyed preparing for myself and the good company with whom it was shared. This feeling swept over me, not completely unfamiliar but one that in the past I have struggled to name. Tonight, I realized that it was gratitude. Intense gratitude for having made an offering to some people for whom I care deeply. Gratitude for a warm, dry place to share it. Gratitude for the simple yet sometimes hard to grasp necessity of a human connection.

It has been a peculiar difficulty of mine that I often cannot shake this notion that I am Uncle Ry, a simple man living in a spare cottage with not much to offer in the way of material gifts to friends, thieves or passers-by. Yet in the good graces of love and the warmth of a full belly, I was basking in the silvery light of  our own creation. My gratitude flowed from giving the moon.

*Zen Shorts, by Jon J. Muth, a masterful illustrator who also has written/illustrated Zen Ghosts and Zen Ties. Those three volumes are worth having for the watercolors alone, and are perhaps three of my most favorite children's books in my daughter's personal library.


  1. Thanks for sharing a little ray of that giving moon in your writing...

  2. Hmmm...if he gave his robe, he probably also gave him the moon--of a sort--if ya get my gist.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

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