Developing a Big Heart

By Terry Mastersmb29-DevelopingLast year the grasshoppers ate every thing green and most things brown. They ate figs and flowers and killed my plum tree. The solution, the neighboring ranchers said, was guineas.

So we built a chicken coop. My plan was for the guineas to live in the coop for a few weeks, then run lose and eat grasshoppers all day, roosting safe from raccoons and other wild critters in the coop at night. From Skeeter at the feed store I bought a fifty pound sack of chicken feed and a watering jug. The planning and building and gathering took three months. During that time the grasshoppers finished off every living thing except the rosemary, cedar trees and sage.

No one around here had guineas for sale, so my neighbor and I drove his pickup to a flea market an hour and a half away where a fellow sometimes sold guineas. We were in luck. Pull ing out a hundred dollar bill, we bought all he had: five cocks and ten hens.

We put seven of the guineas in my neighbor's pen and eight in mine. I drove him home. When I got back- it took maybe three minutes-my Big Dog Ben was in my chicken coop surrounded by dead guineas.

I cried. I cried about the Unfairness of Life and I cried about the Desperate Situation of Little Chickens and I cried about the Power of Big Dogs. I cried until my throat hurt. I sobbed until my eyes stung.

Finally, exhausted, I remembered to breathe. I slowly breathed in my sorrow, sadness, grief, and disillusionment. I breathed out slowly, giving myself the gift of clear, clean stillness. I just sat on the front porch, Ben sitting sadly behind me, and I breathed. In. Out. I thought of others who were fee ling like I was feeling. I thought of the sad dads in Israel and Palestine whose children were killing each other. I thought of the mamas of sons who were being executed for having killed other mama's sons. I just kept slowly breathing in all of our pain, breathing out stillness for us all. Just stillness. Just isness. In. Out. At last, to get a little perspective on my dog-guinea suffering, on the world wide suffering, I breathed in and out a little of the beauty and wonder-full bigness of the cosmos.

Now I have a Big Sad Dog, eight dead guineas, and a heart that is a little bit more compassionate. I also have some very happy grasshoppers.

Terry, True Action and Virtue, practices, with The Plum Blossom Sangha in Austin, Texas.

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