"Real isn't how you are made, said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real, you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept."
"Generally, by the time your are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
We are free to find our own way Over rocks – through the trees – Where there are no trails. The ridge and the forest Present themselves to our eyes and feet Which decide for themselves In their old learned wisdom of doing Where the wild will take us. We have Been here before. It’s more intimate somehow Than walking the paths that lay out some route That you stick to, All paths are possible, many will work, Being blocked is its own kind of pleasure, Getting through is a joy, the side-trips And detours show down logs and flowers, The deer paths straight up, the squirrel tracks Across, the outcroppings lead us on over. Resting on treetrunks, Stepping out on the bedrock, angling and eyeing Both making choices – now parting our ways – And later rejoin; I’m right, you’re right, We come out together. Mattake, “Pine Mushroom,” Heaves at the base of a stump. The dense matted floor Of Red Fir needles and twigs. This is wild! We laugh, wild for sure, Because no place is more than another, All places total, And our ankles, knees, shoulders & Haunches know right where they are. Recall how the Dao De Jing puts it: the trail’s not the way. No path will get you there, we’re off the trail, You and I, and we chose it! Our trips out of doors Through the years have been practice For this ramble together, Deep in the mountains Side by side, Over the rocks, through the trees.
“Make of yourself a light,” said the Buddha, before he died. I think of this every morning as the east begins to tear off its many clouds of darkness, to send up the first signal -- a white fan streaked with pink and violet, even green. An old man, he lay down between two sala trees, and he might have said anything, knowing it was his final hour. The light burns upward, it thickens and settles over the fields. Around him, the villagers gathered and stretched forward to listen. Even before the sun itself hangs, disattached, in the blue air, I am touched everywhere by its ocean of yellow waves. No doubt he thought of everything that had happened in his difficult life. And then I feel the sun itself as it blazes over the hills, like a million flowers on fire -- clearly I'm not needed, yet I feel myself turning into something of inexplicable value. Slowly, beneath the branches, he raised his head. He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.