SHOVELING SNOW WITH BUDDHA

 

In the usual iconography of the temple of the local Wok

you would never see him doing such a thing,

tossing the dry snow over a mountain

of his bare, round shoulder,

his hair tied in a knot,

a model of concentration.

 

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word

for what he does, or does not do.

 

Even the season is wrong for him.

In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?

Is this not implied by his serene expression,

that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

 

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,

one shovelful at a time.

We toss the light powder into the clear air.

We feel the cold mist on our faces.

And with every heave we disappear

and become lost to each other

in these sudden clouds of our own making,

these fountain-bursts of snow.

 

This is so much better than a sermon in church,

I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.

This is the true religion, the religion of snow,

And sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,

I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

 

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow

as if it were the purpose of existence,

as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway

you could back the car down easily

and drive off into the vanities of the world

with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

 

All morning long we work side by side,

me with my commentary

and he inside his generous pocket of silence,

until the hour is nearly noon

and the snow is piled high all around us;

then, I hear him speak.

 

After this, he asks,

can we go inside and play cards?

 

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk

and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table

while you shuffle the deck,

and our boots stand dripping by the door.

 

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes

and leaning for a moment on his shovel

before he drives the thin blade in again

deep into the glittering white snow.

BILLY COLLINS

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