Perhaps it was the fine quality of this pre-Spring day that caused renewed stirrings within the old Styro-Samurai Warrior? It had been many years worth of seasons since the Emperor had granted him this land to protect and bequeath to his descendants in gratitude for the loyalty of his service. He came to the realization that his advancing age was rendering him mortal and that if he wanted to walk his vast estate one last time…he had better do it sooner than later. The Styro-Samurai attached his heirloom katana to his back and ventured alone away from his home. The journey could take him many weeks to complete. This sunny day began with much promise. The trees were starting to produce buds and yes, there were early season wildflowers too. The birds were returning. A favorite Yellow-bellied Sapsucker the Warrior had seen for the past five years was once again in his favorite Sweet Gum tree. Geese were everywhere and an Osprey flew overhead with a fish in its talons. Life seemed to be moving in the timeless rhythm that it always had. The Warrior decided to venture closer to the river for a better look.
The first thing the Warrior observed were trees submerged by the river that normally stood high and dry. In all his years, he had not seen this happen very often and he stood transfixed by the sight. Rousing himself, the Warrior continued his walk to a favorite creek. In his mind he recalled the agitated call of the Belted Kingfisher on the wing and its wildness made him smile. Upon reaching the creek…this is what the Warrior saw.
Hundreds of logs representing hundreds of once living trees lined both sides of the creek. What is happening here!? These were trees from the pure land and their wood is a treasure, their roots hold the soil together, and their leaves provide cooling shade in Summer among all the other blessings they bestow. These trees represent so many potential fulfilled wishes. So much wasted wood and where did it come from? The Warrior surmised that this was further evidence of flooding. These trees probably washed away from their respective banks from distant fiefdoms and were carried here by the spirit of the river?
Walking the shoreline he came upon more evidence that the river was claiming the trees that dared to grow nearest to it. For the Styro-Samurai, it was an alarming sight, but nothing had yet suggested that this way anything other than Nature being moody. His view was about to change as he rounded the bend of the river.
The Warrior entered a field that was strewn with discarded plastic and Styrofoam. This was an outrage and the Samurai drew his katana! Who dares to be this disrespectful to the land!
At last, someone to blame for this clearly was the by-product of men. The Warrior was seeing red and looked for someone or something to strike back at…but there was no one else present except for the gulls flying over the river and they were making no sounds.
Marching with his sword drawn, the Warrior advanced down the riverbank. There was a quality in his rage that was tempered by battle and had made him a legendary and feared adversary in the prime of his youth. But that was then and this is now and as he neared one of his favorite trees…he sheathed his katana again. Up ahead was a treasured spot where a large and special Cottonwood tree grew. The Styro-Samurai’s pace quickened in anticipation.
This great and revered Cottonwood tree that in the Warrior’s time was the setting for many tea ceremonies was now covered in plastic tarps and a sign warning to “keep out” was posted. Again, here is the hand of man at work! Who has the impudence do this in the Styro-Samurai’s land? By what right would these interlopers claim this tree as their own and defile it with their junk? Full of righteous indignation, the Warrior entered the space under the trunk of the tree.
It was empty…no one was there at all. Although the smell of wood smoke was present…the ashes were cold. Improvised seating was arranged around the fire pit. Growing depressed, the Styro-Samurai sought the warmth of the sunshine and sat down to ponder what he had observed thus far. Indeed, the world had changed much since he last walked it far from the comforts and isolation of his fortified castle. The old soldier had a revelation that mindfulness had been usurped by consumption based upon all the trash he saw everywhere. The world was moving away from him.
While the Styro-Samurai was engaged by his thoughts…he was approached by a common man who gestured that he wished to speak and so began a conversation. The man also remembered a different time and place where respect was accorded to both man and beast alike. There was an understanding that nature worked in certain ways and that it was wise to stay within the sustainable limits. The man confirmed to the Warrior that the changes he was seeing in his own land were in fact simultaneously occurring everywhere else too. The common man then asked for forgiveness for what he was about to say which the Warrior granted. He reminded the old soldier that in their day…there was a common and accepted code that shaped the behavior of all. It began with the Emperor and then passed through the Samurai down to everybody else. It seemed to the man, that the flow of wisdom had been interrupted by a changing and challenging time and needed something like a new code to help bring it all back into balance. With those words the common man took his leave.
The Styro-Samurai had seen enough and walked back to his castle. He mulled over the words the mysterious common man had left him with and acknowledged to himself that they seemed to ring true. A different day was indeed at hand and perhaps the time of the warlords was ending. The idea that a different code was needed, but what can one do to achieve enlightenment in an impure land? When the Warrior reached his home he cleansed himself and before the assembled public, removed his sacred katana from its scabbard and replaced it with an ordinary garden rake.
For several weeks the old Warrior meditated by creating a rock and sand garden. Working the earth helped create a different connection to the land that he didn’t have before and was now cultivating. The Styro-Samurai invited his courtesans and the other people in the castle to assist him. To his surprise, most everyone found this activity relaxing and beneficial. It no longer became his garden and became our garden which brought with it a sense of shared responsibility and value. He wondered if this idea would work for a land the size of a country ? Soon he would try talking to the Emperor about this and hope for the best.