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Shambhala Sun | July 2012
You'll find this article on page 17 of the magazine.

There Is a Field ó I'll Meet You There

Whether the grass is damp or dry, lush or languishing, LAURA MUNSON tries to simply sit and breathe and receive whatís there. You could call it meditation, though thatís not what she calls it. She calls it sitting in a field.
 
In Sunday school, I colored pictures of crosses and lambs and learned that the soul slips from the body after death and then passes through pearly gates. Later, in yoga classes, I saluted the sun and learned that the soul reincarnates from body to body, stumbling toward nirvana. But I donít know if I believe in souls. Sometimes I donít believe in anything at all except in green grass and its dying into brown and into flattened detritus by ice and snow, and then in the new green grass that follows, and browns, and flattens again. Sometimes thatís all the reincarnation, all the heaven, I need to believe in.

More than anything, I know that I belong there in the grass, believing in it. Watching it sway in the wind. Watching the ascending ladybugs who donít care if they are going the right or wrong way, who arenít aware of anything but tiny foot after tiny foot.

There is a field below my house. I go there and sit as often as I can. I try to be as open as I can to the grass, whether itís wet or cold or muddy. I try to just sit and breathe and receive whatever is there. I guess you could call it meditation, though thatís not what I call it. I call it sitting in the field. Itís a response to a Rumi quote I love: Outside of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. Iíll meet you there. I like that field. Itís about yes. I want to be able to receive that yes. But sometimes I am too concerned about the ladybugs and their trajectory and about the bears that wander through this migration corridor of my Montana home. Itís wild here and Iím afraid of my wildness. Thatís why I go to my garden to sit.

Itís smaller there and I am somewhat responsible for the design. I can trust the apricot rugosas to bloom from June to September and the Queen Anneís lace to grow up around the Buddha statue and the borage to come up between the spaces on the pathway of heart-shaped rocks. There are ladybugs there too, but I am less concerned for them, with so many aphids to eat on so many rose leaves.

In my garden, I make it easy for myself. Like Iím in kindergarten and itís naptime, I lower myself down on a yoga mat spread out on the brick pathway. I am contained by a picket fence on one side and my house on the other. There are gates and trellises on each end covered in clematis and honeysuckle, and crystals from my grandmotherís chandelier hang from the old vine wood, catching light even on a gray day. I am enclosed. And that helps on those days when the field is too big and the yes feels less possible. Sometimes I bring tea on those days. Green tea with jasmine in my favorite mug. Sometimes I bring a pot of tea. Sometimes I bring my guitar. Sometimes I sing. Sometimes I donít exactly sit; I squat for a while before I decide I can sit. And sometimes I just stand there and take in a few breathsó letting them out through my mouth the way Iíve been taught. Other times I walk through the garden fast, holding my breath, not wanting to know what yes is. The echoes of no too loud to sit at all.

Hereís what that no sounds like: Who do you think you are, sitting in a garden doing nothing when you should be cleaning the house, doing the dishes, folding laundry, weeding, working on your novel, getting exercise, grocery shopping, cleaning out the kidís closets, vacuuming the mouse shit in the basement so the kids can have that slumber party theyíve wanted all summer, applying for that grant, applying for that residency, pitching that magazine editor, paying your bills, canning tomato sauce, volunteering somewhere like Meals on Wheels, which you said you were going to sign up for but havenít, helping that friend with the four kids and the slipped disc, remembering your nieceís fivemonth- overdue graduation present, baby present, birthday card, wedding gift, calling your mother. Who do you think you are just sitting there considering the lilies? Itís folly to sit there. Selfish. You have work to do. The ladybugs will be fine without you and so will the grass for that matter, never mind the roses. And by the way, they need pruning.

Perhaps you can relate.

Oh the fences we build, the gates and trellises even, in order to not sit in the field. In order to say no.

A few weeks ago, my best friend of twenty-three years died. Interesting how easy it is to sit in the field now. In fact, I have been doing practically nothing else but sitting in the field. Iíve been choosing deer beds, places where the grass is flat not from ice and snow, but from creatures of prey finding warmth and cover before hunting season, before rut. Everything is so vivid. The squirrels chattering in the trees, the magpies coming in like caped crusaders, the turkeys waddling and flocking like they know whatís coming at the end of November, the logging trucks downshifting fast for somethingólikely a deer or a dog. I find myself praying and yes, sometimes begging, for us all to be protected. But I find myself more willing to die, the grass so wet with my tears.

And suddenly, with all this sitting, I find myself cleaning out closets and putting baby blankets into plastic storage bins marked in Sharpie ďFor grandchildren.Ē I havenít had a baby for yearsómy youngest is in sixth grade. I find myself getting rid of sippy cups that have lurked in kitchen drawers. Vacuuming up that mouse shit in the basement. Putting up a white sheet and buying a projector and blowing up air mattressesówe will have those movie night parties with the kidsí friends. Weíll watch Funny Face and An American in Paris and make popcorn and ice-cream sundaes. No will become yes. And sitting helps.

Do souls sleep? Do they laugh? Do they cry? Do they remember who they left behind? Do they make agreements to heal in ways they couldnít before? Do they have agendas? Do they sit and say yes, or are they restless? Is it all field where they live? In the world of soul without flesh is there ever garden and fence and gate and the heat of the sun on the house and the yoga mat promising safety? Are there bears in heaven?


From the July 2012 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to browse the entire issue online.




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