On the way to Tiberon proper just when you begin to head south on Tiburon Blvd there on the right is a small field between the roadway and the water.
In the middle of this grassy area nearer to the water is a small tree. Just that one tree alone in the middle of the lawn, save for one companion: a wooden park bench facing the water. More to the point, it faces the tree.
Such a small thing for someone to have planned. Such a small, unassuming thing. Small and unassuming: only at first blush.
Is the bench there for looking out at the water or for looking at the tree? Is it meant for sitting, just some furniture to fill an empty space or is the empty space there to give solitary context to the tree and the bench?
We do have religion out here in the Bay Area, you just have to look for it. Or look with better eyes. Or less sophisticated ones: is the tree playing at idolatry? I don’t think so, for there were no kneelers in front of the bench. Is the bench playing at supplication of the tree? of the water? of both?
Perhaps none of that. No one ever said that sitting Zazen required an official-literal blank wall. Nor does it require actual sitting (though the bench mightâ€”it knows nothing else). Perhaps the tree frames the view, blotting out things of humanity and to remind us that we are the whitespace around trees and bays and grass and not the other way around. But trees and bays and grass demand nothing, offer everything. Demand everything and offer nothing but that which we offer ourselves.
And its demonstration of selfish selflessness can serve and be served by a tree and a bay and a bench. And the grass underfoot offers good chi and the skies take away our bad chi and the tree and the bay and the bench witness the solemnity and the jubilation.
And amidst the tree and the bench and the grass and the bay do we find absolution or do they remind us to absolve ourselves? The tree and the grass and the bay know how; the bench just invites us to stay for the lesson.
We must first lessen ourselves, humble ourselves, in order to open to that which we do not yet understand; learning.
The tree and the bay and the grass understand merely this: sometimes there is no understanding to be had, merely knowing. We are tree and bay and grass and they are we. And what they took eons to learn we have learned along with them.
And understanding comes with the conclusion that there is no understanding, and that nothing ever really concludes.