Ah, my annual holiday walk along the Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia. The Horseshoe is the heart of the campus, with its lush lawn and brick-path promenade that showcase nearly a dozen 19th-century buildings and a multitude of towering trees, including Southern magnolias and majestic live oaks. As always at this time of the year, there are less than a handful of people about.
My secret place is in one of the five gardens that are located between and in the rear of the various buildings. Within the garden's firebrick walls, there are is a snug greenhouse with its opalescent exterior; dormant rose bushes and vines; cropped crape myrtles flaunting their smooth, cinnamon trunks; and, slightly to the rear of the space, a circular, softly-pruned rosemary bush. I dip my hands into the leaves and gently rub their evergreen fragility between my fingers. Several seconds is all that is needed before my hands are pungent with the herb's aroma.
I sit on a bench in front of the gun-metal, three-dish fountain (its steady murmurs formed by a thin stream of water). Again and again, I bring my cupped hands to my face and relish the camphoraceous scent. Through the years, it has always been a delight to come here and savor the quietness. But this year, having finally become clear on who and what I truly was, I discover that there is a space within the quietness, a space that is--at once--subtle, beginningless, and profound.
I then do something that I don't often take the time to do: I simply sit with THIS...Anyone entering the area would intriguingly (or annoyingly) think I was meditating or praying. But no, all seeking has stopped; and if I were praying, it would be for thanks, not supplication. There is just this sitting with the wafts of rosemary and the soft gurgles of water. Or as Dogen Zenji wrote--
Awakened, the one great truth:
Black rain on the temple roof.