Together, they traveled into the mountains north of Los Angeles in search of a Buddhist temple. There, they didn’t feel particularly welcome, or even otherwise enthused. A female monk greeted them from a distance as they approached the temple. The temple itself was actually a double-wide mobile home sitting on a lot with random stones strewn around and plants that looked like they hadn’t seen rain in years.
“This isn’t what I was expecting,” said Morgan.
“Me neither,” replied Livy.
The female monk came closer.
“Can I help you,” she asked in a rigid and icy tone.
“Um, can we look around?” asked Morgan.
“What is it that you want?” she asked coldly.
“Just to look around I guess,” replied Morgan.
Morgan and Livy took a few steps away from the monk and as they stepped away a large dog began to bark at them.
“This isn’t at all what I was hoping for.” said Livy.
“Why don’t we just split?” Morgan replied.
Livy nodded in agreement.
“We’re just going to take off,” Morgan said, trying to speak over the noise of the barking dog.
“Suit yourself,” the woman replied.
The two began to walk away.
“D’ya think this is the American version of buddhism?” Livy asked.
“Kind of like the American version of beer.”
“Exactly,” replied Livy.
On the way back over the mountains and heading toward the sea they saw a bend in the river, far below the road. The bend was almost a corner and there, at the base of a rocky cliff on the far side of the water, were two large, chiseled, boulders with pines, sycamores and oak trees rising above them and forming a triangle. Between the boulders sat a smaller stone and two mulberry trees that appeared as twin preachers. Behind the boulders, a very old live oak rose up twice their height and seemed a fitting replacement for the crucifix.
Morgan said it looked like a natural cathedral and how like Notre Dame it was.
“The earth made these things first and man was just a copy cat. Nothing new under the sun,” thought Livy, “but how lovely it is that nature is always first. “Things changed,” she said out loud now, “from the moment people began to congregate in villages. It was all here for us and we lost our way and’ve only created artificial replacements. That tree has a lot to say, more than any one can.”
Sitting by the river Livy thought how the trip to the Buddhist temple wasn’t all for naught. That they had gone there and not felt invited or welcome or drawn to it had just led them here, to this place which must have a name, but a place they would not give a name nor seek to find a name for from the people who would know these things. Names limit the energy and power of things, waterfalls are so much more than waterfalls. This place would just be the place they went to after the temple and they’d feel what it was and know that this place was where they both decided not to look further into organized religions.
“This is a holy place but not a “holy” place.”
“I know what you mean.”
Morgan had his beliefs in the power of the sea and Livy felt drawn to the forest. There’s power in these things, she thought, though they’re not seen. Just being in and around these things fed the inner life the way others are fed by the Sunday sermon. As she was thinking these things Morgan recited one of his songs to her:
“I don’t believe in idolatry,
I’m hindered by false prophecy,
and I don’t believe that God hangs out in a church.
My religion is not your decision,
my religion has no division,
mine is of you and you and you and me.
holy wars and mission plagues are what its brought to be
offer naught to me.
It’s of the openness of oceans
and of seas
of walking together
of loving with ease
of the the wind in the mountains
of flesh, stone and bone
of thoughts without fear.
and in the seeds we’ve sown.
rejoicing in a union
just looking to the sky
embracing the land and oceans
This is not a religion
in the modern sense at all
but have we gained by being modern
a modern call?”
Livy felt warm everywhere and saw something rising in Morgan. He extended a hand toward her and she responded with a simple “yes,” and then they made love by the river.