The woodpecker that drills futilely at the metal gutters every morning is not adapting to the amount of sunlight at 6:50. Presumably the same bird, it has become as reliable as temple or church bells. Cloudiness or the change in the sunrise does not affect it. At 6:50 the woodpecker alerts the world to its presence and to the time of day – not aware that he has yet to break his fast drilling there.
The Western tendency is to interpret the idea of “learning from nature” as something Darwinian, a notion from Spenser or Hobbes suggesting competition and violence. Nature is seen as “red in tooth and claw,” subject to the principle of “survival of the fittest.”
This is all a projection of Western thinkers ascribing motives to Nature. But understood in a different way — influenced by Eastern thought — Nature is that non-sentient if not inanimate, set of features we experience as mysterious, self-sufficient, reflecting the infinite wisdom of the universe, and from which an unagitated person can “learn”: the sky and stars, the course of water, the lofty and silent trees, the morning glory.
The rain is perfect: steady, sometimes strong, but constant, throughout several days and evenings. I turn off music — any music — in order to listen to the gentle patter of rain, especially at night. The ancient symbol for purification is still fresh, perennial, despite the layers of cultural diversions. The rain pours on the trees, birds, flowers, the man-made objects. One day, caught in the rain while insisting on finishing a garden trim, I want to bolt into the indoors, but, already soaked, I linger, and let the rain wash through me. …
Mahavira, the Jain sage, expressed a truly benign view of looking at trees — and, by extension, all living things: When you see trees in parks, on hills, in the woods, do not say these trees are fit for palaces, gates, houses (which is what the sinful say); rather, say, these trees are tall, many-branched, noble, magnificent (which is what the holy say).
Is that a Painted Lady in the garden? A butterfly, I mean. My field guide is vague. Are the stripes black or brown, close to the wing edge or not, is the orange too light or is it yellow, is there a back tip? I look up to check. Too late. The butterfly has floated away.