THE GREY STONE

by Ken Jones
Father Time on the weathervane
WSW
scything over green fields

Y Maen Llwyd -- The Grey Standing Stone. Gives its name to a small farmhouse folded into the Radnorshire hills. Around a muddy yard are sheep pens and a barn, now a meditation hall surmounted by a weathervane. All silent and empty for my seven day solitary in the lean-to. KLONDYKE is embossed in cast iron on the stove.

Lightness of spruce
little dried blocks
iron belly

There is room enough for shrine, cushion, camp bed, desk, and easy chair. The other occupant is a winter fly, who sleeps upside down above the stove. Each morning, two hours before dawn, she and I and the pot belly all come to life together

The wind whistles
the stove grumbles back
between them
I sit

Out for a pee under a starlit sky. One face of the cheesy moon is already lit up by the sun rising, I suppose, somewhere over England. Owls return to their roosts in the dingle. Back on my cushion, vast space.
 
Later, I sit at the little desk

Morning star
hiss of the pressure lamp
the sutras black on white

Turning off the lamp, staring out of the window.

Restless buzzing --
dawn filters slowly
through ragged clouds

The bliss of morning coffee is not mentioned in the sutras. Nor marmalade on toast. I brush my teeth, and get into Dogen's Life and Death.
 
Along the track another of my kind greets me. "Nice day, it is!" The care-worn face of a farmer, heaving a dead ewe into the trailer. Later, in fading light, I wander up onto the hill. Shoulders hunched, searching as usual for something too shy to show itself. Hands tighten on the rust of an iron gate.

Warmed by the setting sun
my skinny shadow
stretching across a field

Down in the valley the searchlight of an occasional car, swinging round a bend. And then ... against the evening sky, there it is.

Again the old fool is reminded. Doffs his cap, and bows to the tree. For only when the self retires do the ten thousand things advance and enlighten.
 
The Maen Llwyd is an electricity free zone, apart from my torch. It picks out this and that as a flood of light can never do. Once, a fly..

Down on paper
drawn to the torchlight heart
transparent speckled wings

And later a hatchet:-

Old axe
the sway
in its haft

Here are two centuries of heat and light. There is the generous soft light of the Victorian lamp, the ultimate in paraffin technology and elegance. And the battered "VALOR" heater, recalling the draughty bed sits of my youth. The oldest exhibit stands with a box of Co-op matches beside my bed.

Made for thick fingers
pewter candleholder
its brass snuffer

Down in the valley lies Pant-y-Dwr -- the Watery Hollow of some ninety souls, with the lowest temperatures in Wales, and its most central pub, the Mid Wales Inn. A ghostly moon, veiled in mist, floats above the nine sodium lights.
 
I throw more logs into the stove, pump up the flaring Tilley lamp, and heat a can of baked beans.

Closing curtains
opening curtains
this long life
of nights and days

Later, I light a single candle before the pale green figure of Kwan Yin, goddess of compassion, austere and erect. A slender stick of pine incense perfumes the air. Three times the sounding bowl ripples the silence, and the first watch of the night begins. An hour passes, and I stretch my legs across the passage in the cold shadows of the meditation hall. On the other side of the yard the weather-beaten planks of the old barn are silver bright.

Slow pacing meditation
reassuringly
a floor board creaks

Returning, I wrap my black robe about me and ease my body into the last sit of the day. The short chant has a depth and richness that takes me unaware. Kuan Yin stares back, with that elusive smile of hers.

In the murmuring stove
soft cry of owls
incense
burnt out

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