It’s foliage season in Northern Vermont. Fabulous displays of color across the Green Mountains. As their name implies, they are covered with trees that are throwing off color; wild screaming death throes.
I love foliage time and I also love the lush jungle green of summer and even love the bareness of mud season and stick season. Every season is a miracle in Vermont; every day has its own blessings of color, landscape, and earth.
Of course foliage is big business too; a major draw of our tourist industry. I’m certainly not against enjoying the foliage and the joy it brings to people from around the country. However, I often wonder whether dukkha (that sense of pervasive dissatisfaction with the world) is being reinforced through such quests for novelty.
It’s the same thing with fireworks. I enjoy fireworks as much as the next guy, but I don’t go out of my way to see them. In fact, I rarely do. Every moment contains its own version of fireworks if we are paying attention. The pursuit of fireworks, like the foliage, may just reinforce a way of viewing the world that is our undoing in the end.
Reflecting on this, I wrote the following poem. In the poem, I recall a fireworks display I was party to at the Siddha Yoga ashram in South Fallsburg, New York. This would have been in the mid-1980s after I returned from the ashram in Ganeshpuri India (the ashram described in Eat, Pray, Love. Please note that the depiction in Eat, Pray, Love is a personal account and not a complete portrayal of the Siddha Yoga tradition. For more information visit the Siddha Yoga Foundation
). I’ve never looked at fireworks the same.
In 1989, I took my first ten-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat and started my career in mindfulness. This practice has shown me the singular shape of each moment.
In the deepest sense, each moment that we are alive can be as exciting and “special” as fireworks and foliage, if we know how to look.
“Fireworks and Foliage”
People go out of their way for
fireworks and foliage.
Seeking these displays of
Forgetting they live in brilliant
I once saw fireworks,
At a time when I was in love with
Intoxicated after chanting the
The display, matchless only to
the explosions of blue,
roiling in my consciousness
Years later I moved from this ecstasy
to the quiet solitude of breathing.
Its leaves changing color with each
People flock to my Vermont home.
Cue up along country highways
for red, orange, yellow, and green
They make a deal with reality,
“I’ll look at your becoming and
only when it is colorful
and when I get to go back to sleep
Not so bad; just a handful of days
to know who we are,
to look over that precipice of
To know we are falling towards our
If we could smile into that knowing,
loose our grip and lean into gravity,
we’d see that despair as joy,
that precarious is precious,
that ending is beginning.
Then each day is the 4th of July and autumnal New
Each moment that explosive bliss of