Zen Spot #38 — Mindfulness, meditation and 4 a.m. on Via Fondazza October 17, 2018 00:00

When today is still yesterday

A new day doesn’t begin at 12 a.m. While natural, and accepted, as that time when a page in the calendar is turned, for those of us who are alive and well beyond midnight, the new morning doesn’t begin until 4 a.m. Until such time, despite the world believing it is today, I believe it is still yesterday.

I’ve written often, over the last year, about a life changing trip to Europe in April of 2016. Over the course of eleven days, I was immersed in several cultures by setting foot in many new homes and apartments — cooking meals, washing dirty clothes, drawing and learning.

Being driven through the Italian Alps changed me. Hobbling through the streets of a German village taught me, and frightened me. Having the wake spray in my face, while loving my wooden bench at the back of a water taxi on the Grand Canal, on my way to a barrier island near Venice, was sublime.

Twice during the trip, time stopped and the universe spoke in a way that I know will cross my mind in the final moments while I lay dying. The first happened while I was pumping gas at an Alpine service station. Yes, pumping gas. 

Despite its location at six thousand feet elevation, the service station sat between two pastured rocky giants that rose another six thousand feet on either side. I was small — but that point was almost irrelevant. Too, the landscape was a combination of Hollywood epic and a turbo-charged memory of the Pennsylvania coal country. Perhaps it was my ignorance, but the visceral ignorance of coal country was absent. Instead, there was a palpable observation of their hometown by its citizens.

As I clicked the handle to pump the gas, time froze wonderfully. My mind stopped thinking. The sun shone warmly and commonly on my face. I have no words for the sky. Life and time stopped to wait for me — and I knew it.

In the moment, I knew it.

Ten days later

Bologna Italy is a powerful and private city. Walls and porticos obstruct one's vision everywhere except on the major arteries. One’s choice to look up at the sky and the buildings while navigating a smaller street is almost the only choice, other than to look straight ahead. Courtyards, gardens and properties are often protected by porticos. In addition to providing cover from the weather as citizens walk through the city, the porticos protect storefronts and front doors in a peculiar way--they make it hard to find anything unless you are standing right next to it. In particular, they block signage and addresses. 

Despite this fact, I love the city, especially at night. Especially well after midnight. From my son’s fourth floor apartment, long before bed and shortly before morning, the quiet of the blackness outside his window will put almost anyone in touch with their inner quiet.

By contrast, I am used to my love of the screeching of Manhattan, where walls also rise up to protect whatever is behind them. Among the most common of the screeching are the horns of taxi cabs. If one is Caucasian, it’s east to step slightly off the curb, raise your hand, have a cab fly up, have a door fly open, and get a ride that will begin a trip to anywhere on the planet. 

By contrast, one must walk to cab stands in Bologna, some of which can be blocks away. Doors almost never fly open in front of you. Despite eleven days in and around Bologna, this fact escaped me until the final morning. Until my very last moments on Via Fondazza, I expected to experience New York. On any of the Vias, you can call a cab company and schedule a pick up but, well, they don’t always show up.

My flight was scheduled to leave Bologna at 6:30 a.m. The morning was cool and quiet and, as my son sipped an espresso four floors above me, I sat under the portico in front of his flat, leaning against the wall as I am apt to do, and was given the gift of another moment in time.

As I rested, having delightfully been up all night, I took the time to take a photo of the building across the street from his home. Find it above, with all the unsteadiness of trying to shutter an image in darkness. The street lamps cast yellow everywhere and the silence was unbelievable in contrast to, well, New York City. 

The time for my pick up came and went — and went and went — until we realized that we would need to carry my belongs five blocks away, with the hope that a cab would be sitting at the cab stand. It was, thankfully.

I was surprised, during my ride to the airport or, perhaps more accurately, after arriving at the airport, how quickly and completely I left death behind in possession of two moments in time that will arrive again.

As I fade away.


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?