A Moment of Zen

Rock Squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus)I had a moment of zen the other day on the porch at the office with one of these guys.

I was taking a break from the utter mind-numbingness of modern American business culture at our offices here in Austin. Our offices are out on Loop 360, where the Colorado River snakes through the last vestiges of a vast 250 million year old limestone escarpment. What used to be the bed of a large inland sea is now one of the most beautiful places in Texas. Cyrpess trees soldier down the banks of crystal clear streams, fossils litter the hilltops and cattle low in the fields. Sadly, much of the Hill Country around Austin (and even worse on the northern outskirts of San Antonio) has been obliterated by a flesh consuming bacteria of concrete, mirrored glass buildings and McMansions.

Until a few weeks ago I’d never seen the mostly black furred rock squirrel in Texas. At first I thought he might be an invasive species. Then I thought he might be a misplaced one, not unlike the Lost Pines outside of Bastrop. So I googled him.

Sure, I’ve seen other, more common squirrels, in San Antonio and Houston, but this was a first. It made me feel good inside.

Usually I see the little guy, or maybe one of his cousins, as I am driving up the hill towards our offices, which are next to a wildlife reserve. Austin is deservedly famous for its greenbelts–to prevent ex-urbanization.

Anyway, I’d see the guy or gal sitting there near a storm drainage, on his haunches, looking up at me querulously, “dood!” I imagine him saying, “why you keep disturbing my serenity with your loud car and louder music?”

But Friday, whilst sitting on the back porch in the shade of a cedar and oak grove at the back of our building I saw him scampering around, picking up the acorns that are just beginning to thump and thwack down from the trees. He was just as curious about me as I was him. So curious, in fact, that he came within arms reach of me. I sat, mesmerized.

I didn’t learn any profound lessons from the little guy. It was just a moment. But in that moment universes expanded and collapsed upon themselves as the squirrel and I simply observed.

Words Written In The Shade Of Aurangzeb’s Tomb

Tomb Of AurangzebI saw Aurangzeb, the ‘the world conquering emperor’ sitting at the feet of Baba Shah Muzaffar weaving a skullcap, his head bowed low.

A harsh, dry February wind blew up from Kanyakumari, over the Wayanands.

“Master,” Aurangzeb said, “I have conquered the Deccan and sent the infidel fleeing in the four directions.”

Aurangzeb’s men had slaughtered a hundred thousand souls.

To this Baba lifted his gray gaze.

“But you have not conquered yourself.”