The Tibetan term bardo, or “intermediate state,” is not just a reference to the afterlife. It also refers more generally to these moments when gaps appear, interrupting the continuity that we otherwise project onto our lives. In American culture, we sometimes refer to this as having the rug pulled out from under us, or feeling ungrounded. These interruptions in our normal sense of certainty are what is being referred to by the term bardo. But to be precise, bardo refers to that state in which we have lost our old reality and it is no longer available to us. Lion’s Roar–Buddhist Wisdom for our Time.
March came in like a lamb last week. Every morning was peaceful and serene, and several of my cocktail hours were down by the water. Granted, I was wearing a parka and hat, and had to walk over frozen ground and patches of snow to get there, but the sun is now high enough off the horizon to give all the heat required to sit there for that hour. It’s been so quiet. Even the pair of Canada Geese has paddled by the shoreline in silence. There are two pairs of geese now sitting on the white ice of Johnson’s Pond, waiting to make their nests. Soon, we’ll hear the loons’ calls out on the water. And, this morning, there were two robins on my walk.
The weather forecasters claim there will be a cool down to more normal temperatures in the week ahead, but spring is creeping in, step by baby step. Much like life in the time of Covid, we’re in a holding pattern, as we peek out the door to see if its safe. “We have lost our old reality and it is no longer available to us”, in this time of bardo. We’re not sure what we can yet do, and in this uncertain future, people make different decisions on the right course of action. I have friends who left town, so they don’t have to answer the phone calls from people asking, “how did you jump the vaccine line?” The local bars and restaurants are now packed with cars on Friday nights. With our state mask mandate rescinded, even the UPS store took down their masks required sign, and I could see through the glass that employees were maskless. At the local post office, where they observe the federal mask mandate, the clerk thanked me for coming in to mail my packages, and thanked me for keeping her employed.
I have low expectations for the month of March. There is never any certainty about what the weather might be like from day to day, and it’s always a good idea to just be patient, ride it out, and look forward to April showers and daffodils. I’m back to reading Kenneth Grahame’s book, The Wind in the Willows. There is something so comforting in reading about the passing of seasons, the flow of the river in spring, and the dangers of winter in the Wild Wood, and how Rat and Mole show such kindness to all their fellow creatures. They are characters who know how to find home, whatever travails they encounter in their adventures. As Mole tells Badger:
“Once well underground, you know exactly where you are. Nothing can happen to you, and nothing can get at you. You’re entirely your own master, and you don’t have to consult anybody or mind what they say. Things go on all the same overhead, and you let ’em, and don’t bother about ’em. When you want to, up you go, and there the things are, waiting for you.”