Cascadia Poetics LAB


Each day after Bhakti and I have our morning beverage (a matcha latté for me, coffee for her) I sit at this here Mac and journal about the previous day. Before that though, I read last year’s journal entry. There were riches in my December 9, 2020 journal entry that, reading a year later, seem quite worthy of repeating here on this blog. A year gives one a little space to see if the idea has legs and I guess you dear blog reader will be the judge of that. So here goes.

One item is an excerpt from a 2019 interview I did with Jason Wirth and left in my journal, so as to see it again a year later. A Cascadia Poetics Lab Board Member and dharma brother, the occasion was an interview that was conducted for the South Seattle Emerald. It was about Cascadian Zen, an event we staged at Seattle U and a precursor to an anthology which we plan to publish in late 2022. Here is an excerpt from our 2019 interview:

Paul E Nelson: There’s a special connection to water in Buddhism. Does it represent the principle of compassion?

Jason Wirth: Yes. Water is the figure of emptiness, and emptiness is connected to compassion. Wisdom is often associated with form and you stick to it. Boom. The immutable, deep Buddha nature to which you have an unwavering practice towards. But of course this Buddha nature is mobile flowing at play and work all over the place. It’s not hanging around. You remain steadfast to change and impermanence, dynamism and co-creation.

I often think of it this way. It’s a deep exploration and clarification. Wisdom within manifests itself outwardly as compassion. Lived wisdom is compassion. Like water, compassion, because it has no fixed dogmatic position of its own, it can hear and appreciate the power of all positions. Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, hears all the cries of the world in all their languages and all their forms and not just human cries. Of course, that’s huge. That’s too much for an individual, but the path is bigger than what we can do as individuals…

(My journal entry continued after this quote with: “It is clear to me the opportunity to become a more noble human is easier than in other bioregions because of the prevalence of water, especially on the west side of the Cascades.”)

And that immersion in Buddhist philosophy combined with inspiration from the book I was reading at the time, Fred Wah’s Music at the Heart of Thinking, led me to write a poem in the series I had started about five weeks previously, FLEXIBLE MIND. Here is the poem from one year ago that came from the confluence of those and other factors:

12.8.2020 FLEXIBLE MIND (After Fred Wah) 12.8.2020 FLEXIBLE MIND (After Fred Wah) 2

Funny thing about this timing is that TODAY (8-Dec-2021) I am to interview Fred Wah about his talk called The Simple: With the Page Stretching Out From My Feet and Music at the Heart of Thinking. I have been trying to get an interview with Fred for about ten years, so I am eagerly anticipating our Zoom session which, Inshallah, will be posted here soon.

I am not sure what conclusions I would reach so far in my bioregional cultural investigation of Cascadia, but surely there are principles that can guide one’s life that are connected to place in such a way that is more satisfying and rings more true to our deep selves than what the nation state is providing at this time in history. What Gary Snyder wrote in 1974 seems even more relevant today: “The “U.S.A.” and its states and counties are arbitrary and inaccurate impositions on what is really here.”