How the petals on the flowers of the plum trees fluttered and turned in the breeze! I cannot help but think of you and the distance that separates us now. We loved the springtime; autumn now has hold of my heart.
She had black hair that shined like spun silk and onyx green eyes and when she spoke her voice was like the music of many waters to my ears. She told me our time together would be too short so I knew from the start that nothing I could do would keep her by my side.
I had yet to learn of not-doing. Being a man I thought I had to bully my way through life; I believed I had to make everyone and everything bend to my will. In time and through the course of knowing many women I gradually learned how wrong I was in my actions.
She wore a tiny smile and nothing I could do or say would ever change it. It was all part of the sadness of the world, like the rattle of skeleton leaves still clinging to the pin-oak trees outside our window in the dead of winter or the bitter smell of pine tree tea boiling deep in the mountains.
I gave her gifts each day thinking I might woo her in that way into staying with me. She accepted each of them with the same sad smile she wore when our lovemaking ended as if she knew she had no choice but to take what I offered.
She made me promise that when she had to go I wouldn’t stop her. I wondered why she would have to leave but she wouldn’t say. I caught the darkness from her words. I thought the worst; I accused her of having another lover. Rather than dignifying my accusations with denial promise me is all that she said. So despite myself I promised.
On the day she left I could have followed but I didn’t. I had always been aggressive but instead I embraced the receptive. It was the first time I'd ever been passive like that; it opened something up that I'd been missing.
I dream of you still; though I've taken other lovers since I've never been quite able to shake the glassy shards of your love from my heart. Sometimes during the quiet of that space in between waking and sleep I think I hear you calling my name. When I listen more closely all I hear is my own sighs.
I understand this is an indulgence, an unnecessary profligacy. Such extravagances lead to insubordination while parsimony leads to meanness. It is better to be mean yet it would have been better still to achieve an accord with my lover. By coming to a concurrence she might never have left me to the poverty of my tears.
These days I am satisfied and composed in my life while I notice those who are mean seem always full of distress. I achieve harmony when I gain by losing for I know I lose by gaining. I combine the forces of yin and yang by carrying yin and embracing yang. I keep the strength of a man and cherish the caring of a woman. In this way I achieve balance.
A man with whom I used to work came to me when his wife left him. I suppose he considered us friends or perhaps he didn't regard us as such; rather he needed someone to talk to and I'd always been a good listener.
I remember how he cursed her; he told me how she had been unfaithful to him; he said that she told him how she wanted to make the marriage work but each time he looked at her he could see the other man reflected in her gaze. I suggested that he close his eyes and talk to her then. I reminded him how empty his bed would feel without her there by his side.
Later I heard they had reconciled though he never spoke to me again except in passing. I imagined that he felt he had shamed himself in front of me by opening up or perhaps he simply had nothing left to say.
Those who are fond of daring and unhappy in their poverty of love will seek to usurp those whom they perceive have more than they do. So will such people should I carry my dislike of them to extremes. Though a person might be possessed of many admirable qualities if they are niggardly and proud those other things are not worth mentioning.
I learn knowing I can never reach my objective. I can find no name for it. Those who are fervid without being righteous, simple but not sincere, stupid and yet never attentive, these people I cannot understand.
No one likes to be orphaned, worthless, or widowed. Yet this is how I describe myself. I came into this world naked, scared, and crying; I will leave it fulfilled, confident, and laughing.
The mystery became one. One became two. Two became three. And three became the world. Becoming one with the mystery these four things I abjure: I draw no foregone conclusions; I form no arbitrary predeterminations, I embrace no obstinacy, and I cultivate no egotism.
I am without knowing; I am possessed of no knowledge. Yet should someone who is empty of answers question me I exhaust my response from the beginning to the end. Having no official employment I have acquired many arts. Though I exert all my ability I cannot follow that which is nameless; though the mystery stands right before me when I seek to grasp it I find no way of holding on.
When the year became cold I finally understood why the cypress and the pine were the last to lose their leaves. Do I not think of you in your distant house? It is the want of the thought of you that is distant; how far away is that?
By embracing strength I sit quietly and unmoving. By embracing compassion I nurture all things. By embracing laughter I will die laughing. This is my only lesson.