SLIPSTREAMING INTO SPRING
UPAYA: ZENDO SITTING, MOUNTAIN WALKING
JANINE M. BENYUS ON BIOMIMICRY
REFUGE ON THE RIO BLANCO
Spring emerging: rivers run with snow melt – floating forms of dissolving sludge and icy particulate. I am in a slipstream along the Rio Blanco for a brief spell. My mind awash with nonlocal counter-currents and global conflicts – the world spinning either too fast or too slow – I’m seeking refuge and steeping myself in the local flow along a river running south of Pagosa Springs, CO. This intimate safe place offers me quietude, creative opening, and a merging into a multivalent slipstream of awareness – every stomp of the way.
Not sure whether there is liquid or solid beneath my boots, I’m postholing a trepidatious line along the river’s dissipating snow-packed bank. Entrained between a drainage ditch, and impenetrable thickets of tamarisk and barbed wire boundaries, I pull up boots-full of heavy snow. Expecting to sink into the drink as I step forward, I poise my camera down onto optically intimate images of icy shards and shadows; phantom shapes of snow melt sliding beneath transparent sheets; glistening gurgles; and crystalized slurpees floating by. Frosty-filigreed daggers remain en-garde and pendulant from the river’s bank.
Melting into the slipstream: thin frozen formations break off moment-by-moment into warming waters. Rising sun is intent on melting every image before my eyes. I frame-up a fragile leafy feuillette – the perfect satellite picture – only to witness through my lens its peninsulas and estuaries slip away. I think I hear it – the scale of sound so slight given the amplification of the water’s warble and the camera’s zing. Image capture, I know so well: That which is too closely observed dissolves beyond all grasping – resisting capture of any kind.
The book I’m into, left in my car parked on a sloppy spring shoulder, is BIOMIMICRY – Innovation Inspired by Nature (Harper Perennial, 1997). Biologist, Natural Science writer, Innovation Consultant, and TED presenter, Janine M. Benyus asserts: The difference between what life needs to do and what we need to do is another one of those boundaries that doesn’t exist. Beyond matters of scale, the differences dissolve.
An innovation consultant to businesses seeking guidance around sustainability practices, Janine Benyus is co-founder of the Montana based Biomimicry Guild and founder of the Biomimicry Institute. All about emerging creative applications of lessons learned from natural systems studies, along with her colleagues, the scale of Benyus’ vision and activities abide at a boundless scale.
Scale is the message I’m drawing from observations alone the Rio Blanco. The camera now exhausted and dismissed over my shoulder, I am fully in the presence of these frozen formations. To the unfiltered eye, with their distinct textures; various gauges, thick and thin; interwoven patternings; and stress engineering for changing conditions, these forms model nature’s ongoing adaptability, shape-shifting capacity, and endurance – for a season. Metaphors for the ultimate impermanence of all forms: kerplunk, there goes another one – dissolving into the flow.
With each witnessed kerplunk, I am reminded that, in the human scale of things, it’s not a matter of great or small in the social domains. Everyone is an interconnected integer: we all scale up and scale down in the course of a lifetime. The deal is to stick to the text of our individual stories – come hell or high water – staying in right relationship to the great whatever of our lives– till our very own liquification day.
Dissolving the awareness gap between ourselves and natural systems is the creative narrative around biomimicry. Janine Benyus stories it well: The new science (of biomimicry) studies nature’s models, and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems, e.g., a solar cell inspired by a leaf.” She continues: Biomimicry is a new way of viewing and valuing nature. It introduces an era based not on what we can extract from the natural world, but what we can learn from it.
Whether on mountains or in rivers, learning from the natural world, I must be an open-source system myself: all the sense-gates flung wide. Along the Rio Blanco, I am also aware that there is no such thing as silence. There is a cadence to quietude: a felt-sense of nature’s rhythms – a very fine frequency. Puts me in memory of a Dogen inspired Mountains & Rivers meditation retreat I participated in years ago. Mountain loving Roshi Joan Halifax, Abbot, Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM, guided us silent retreatants up and along the high Sangre de Cristo trails – after grounding ourselves in morning meditation practice.
During our solo silent hikes, we were guided to identify and pull focus on the individual sense fields – one-at-a-time – into practices of awareness. Seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting: that included my P.B & J. Bringing each of the senses forward – like popping up a buried window on a computer screen unearthed from multiple layers – an intimacy with each sense arose. With practice, a palpable shift in my collective sense-fields took place on that retreat – beyond self-conscious concepts of such.
More than a nature walk, a similar opportunity for immersion in mind and body is upcoming this spring at Upaya. The sesshin experience alternates periods of zendo meditation and high country walking, and is guided by Roshi Joan Halifax – indoors and out.
Upaya Zen Center – May 1-6, 2012
SESSHIN: ZENDO SITTING, MOUNTAIN WALKING
Immersions in the natural world should not be occasional special happenings. As Janine Benyus advises: As adults, we need to put down our books about nature and go out into a rainstorm – be startled by the deer we startle. Climb a tree like a chameleon. It’s good for the soul to go where humans do not have a great say about what happens.
As a child, I grew up wild, weedy – oft-times wet and cold in the northern New Jersey countryside. I bounded outside gleefully into natural happenings – scrambling up into my treehouse in all weather – all seasons. In rainstorms, I’d disappear at dusk down into the farmlands below our house on a wooded hill. Barefoot – shoes in hand – I’d squeeze between drenched corn rows, mud oozing between my toes. Emerging stealthily into open fields, deer would leap off, but the cows, horses, and sheep payed me no mind. I tested barbed wire fencing for liveness with blades of grass before suppressing it and popping over.
The occasional snake would flush. Distant thunder – counting seconds – the lightening. Sopping wet and body heat lowering, I’d grab watercress for the dinner salad out of a spring we shared fearlessly with farm animals. If a clear evening, I’d join my older brothers – and together with farm kids – we bailed hay well into the crepuscule. Hitting home after dark – back from beyond – we were stuck head to toe with hay slivers and soil. We ate dinner late in our family – after the cicadas kicked-in.
Memories! Now on the Rio Blanco, practicalities kick in. Beyond the maw of picture-taking – and of any conceptualizing of biomimicry in the natural scheme of things – I am fully present with post-holing in the soft snow back to my car for the three-hour drive to Santa Fe. The quiet cadence of my refuge along the Rio Blanco is a mere evanescence. Clear in mind, however, is Janine Benyus’ boots-in-the-earth wisdom. Her personal story of intimacy with the systems of the natural world is lucidly relayed in the last chapter of BIOMIMICRY.
Always mulches down to story. The last chapter of BIOMIMICRY: Where Do We Go From Here? draws the reader into the narrative challenge: STORY – to see connections, patterns, and consequences and, finally, to envision a different future. This ability to literally scout the river of time mentally gives us an option: Run the rapids the way we always have, or pull into an eddy and learn a better way.
Eddying out for gas, I’m now driving through spring squalls along the rolling road from Pagosa Springs to Chama. With its ebbing-and-flowing speed limits, I’m on speed control to offset the renown officious fuzz who aims to keep slipstreamers like me in his cross-hairs.
At max, I tap on satellite radio Sirius XM – The Bridge.
Slip Slidin’ away…
You know the nearer your destination,
The more you’re slip slidin’ away.
Believe your gliding down the highway
When, in fact, you’re slip slidin’ away.
PERSONAL STORY RETREAT – UPAYA ZEN CENTER
WOMENS’ ENGAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP
Visual Artist – LISL DENNIS – Story Guide
September 14-16 – Santa Fe, NM
For information & registration click below