The Sky is Not Falling: Grandfather Fire Came to Remind You

The ash falling outside is not the sky.

Grandfather Fire came to remind you:

The sky is not falling.

This ash is a field from someplace far away;

grass turned to dust.

A brown uncle who died from pesticides years ago.

This ash is a forest. A meadow. A fern.

It is the delicate, singed vine

of a scarlet runner bean from

in a garden in Medford— [1]

planted by a great-great grandmother before your parents were born.

This ash was a bungalow on a California mountain,

filled with the laughter of children.

A salmonberry seed,

carried aloft by a finch or a bush tit,

Planted by chance on Chinook land [2]

Right where you sit. Right now.

Thank you, bird. Thank you berry.

It is not the sky that is falling.

This dust is the homes of beings with families and stories.

It is the beings themselves:

elk and hawks, ants, fungus, and coyote,

trapped and on fire.

It is their fear and your sorrow.

It is fruition of our ignorance. Disrespect. Forgetfulness.

It is essence. It is sparkling appearance of wisdom.

The sacred dust of life turning to death, turning to life again.

This is exactly how truth unfolds.

Grandfather Fire just came to remind you.

One day you—and I, too—will be dust falling from the sky or

kicked up in small clouds by children playing in the dirt in Clatskanie.

You have been dust, many times already.

Let this knowing come home to your belly.

Right now. On this breath.

Go outside. Kneel down and touch this dust.

Carry a spoonful to your altar.

Make offerings of gratitude

for the gifts of all these beings to your awakening.

Trees who offered you oxygen.

Rivers who quenched your thirst.

Fat autumn squash with smooth skin that

filled your stomach and gave you seeds for next year.

Bees. Mold. Politicians and poets.

Termites, mosquitoes.

Black tailed deer.

Spinach. Apples.

Tiny Mason Bees that do so much good.

Crows eating french fries on Burnside,

A hundred viruses whose names we don’t know.

Mischievous squirrels. Bats and bears—

all made thousands of offerings to you.

Did you notice. Did you say thank you?

Did you feel their love? That miracle?

That beautiful thing that happened over and over?

Did it make you stronger? Satisfied? Grateful?

They gave you their blessings—what did you spend them on?

With all these blessings, I should have superpowers by now.

"You do," says Grandfather Fire, "now start using them."

Doctors and farmers and the old woman

growing medicinal herbs in pots on her porch;

Butterflies, inchworms, fish and stray dogs,

These are your community. They need you now.

There is not one who does not deserve your love and effort.

Angry, pinched-faced bigots and dazzling, tiny gauze-winged moths

all have a place together.

We have to make room for each other.

Please offer prayers.

Some of them gave their life for yours.

They are your family, falling from the sky.

Your parents, your children, your guardians and lovers.

Some of them died for your awakening.

Turkey vultures and mice, feral cats and awkward, blushing hop vines

have perished so you can thrive.

Leather-faced veterans and millet farmers in faraway villages

have ploughed your fields in other places.

What will you plant?

Grandfather Fire came to ask.

The rain is coming soon to also remind you,

those beings who disappeared will all come back.

Even now, tiny tendrils of new growth are drawn upward

beneath the ground as it cools.

Towering redwoods, fireweed and bees. It will take time.

Even now seeds are opening

under the scorched earth.

Muskrat will come from under the muddy water.

Blue jays will start arguments and worms will worry and worry.

Banana slugs will magically find their way back to the monastery.[3]

Welcome them. Let them find their own place. Stay out of their way.

They know what to do, where to go.

Say, “I know. I know. Now I understand.

Please take what you need.

Please, have more. I will take less.

Thank you for your patience. I was so young,

even though my body is old.

I am listening now. I will tell the others.”

Let's apologize to the earth and stars

and all beings for our carelessness;

geed, anger and ignorance.

unkind speech and mistaken views.

But when you do this—

Remember you are speaking to yourself.

To your body. Your mind. Your heart.

Say it out loud. Keep reminding yourself.

Grandfather Fire says he is leaving soon.

He has other work to do.

Over his shoulder he whispers one more thing:

Are you listening?

He says, “Take your place as a sacred leader.

Stop hiding out in the mantle of smallness.

It’s selfish and careless.

You are wisdom in a body of action.

Stand up now. Do your work.

I made a path around you. You are still here.

There is a reason you are alive.

There is a reason your body is not falling from the sky as ash.

You are the sky.

You are the great wisdom that sees this and understands.

You are the great love that arrives and departs on every breath.

You are primordial knowing,

turning the mind of the universe in a new direction.

Yes. Your heart.

Your mind.


This beautiful thing is yours to do.

You are doing it already.

It’s time you own this.”

by lama lekshe

This was inspired by a few sentences sent by a friend.

Written for daily poem practice, September 12, 2020.

Offered to lama sonam rinchen, root of my practice.

[1] Medford is a town in southern Oregon. Fires were rampant there when I was writing. [2] Great Vow Monastery, where I live and first read this poem, is in proximity of occupied Chinook indigenous land, near Clatskanie, Oregon. [3] The monastery where Lama Lekshe lives has an amazing array of slugs that inhabit the woods and gardens. They are excellent teachers.

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