Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Naturally it is getting light earlier these days. On Saturday we didn't even turn the zendo lights on, and the warm sunlight came flooding in right at the beginning of the period. This morning it was still dark at five, but we were treated to the chirpy dawn chorus even before the han started. This was soon replaced, however, by the sound of a helicopter hovering nearby.
This is not an unusual sound in the city, but we tend to get it in the afternoon, when there is heavy rush hour traffic or a demonstration blocking the streets. I found I had a different response to the noise of the helicopter to that which I have to the waves of traffic passing down Oak Street. I used to have the same response to a garbage truck that would park half a block away during morning zazen and sit for some time with its engine idling, at a low frequency that seemed to reverberate around the whole zendo. It can be summed up in the phrase, "Why don't you go away?" Of course this put me in mind of the famous clip of Suzuki Roshi, and I sighed internally at my resistance and inability to just allow the sound to be there with me.
I am not sure what the helicopter was there for this morning; I certainly am not going to be tuning into a television station to find out. I was thinking during zazen of the weekend activity across the city, where a large section of elevated roadway leading to the Golden Gate Bridge was being demolished. It was a big story here for several days; everything seemed to go smoothly, and when I rode past the area on Sunday morning, the scale of activity was most impressive. According to the news stories, people living nearby had no problems with the noise of the demolition crews, but there were complaints about the media helicopters overhead. Thinking of this, I get to feel justified in my annoyance this morning, and to formulate ideas about why it isn't necessary for the helicopters to be there, or how there should be a time limit on them hovering in one place. But now, listening to noisy rush hour traffic passing by the building several hours later, I can easily say to myself that the helicopters have a job to do, that it is something you can't even try to control. At the time, the best I could do was savour the moment when I noticed it had finally flown away, and the silence seemed especially spacious and enjoyable.

I went to Doyle Drive a couple of weeks ago to photograph the transformation - these elevated sections are no longer there


Sandy's witterings said...

Here on the West coast of Scotland,or at least my bit of it, helicopters are rare and somewhat ominous in the same way that blue flashing lights on ambulances are. They often mean a turn out for the airsea rescue. These things do rather set the mind a wondering why.

Shundo said...

Actually, I forgot to check on it later, and no-one told any breathless stories, so perhaps it was just a traffic snarl-up. Flashing lights and sirens are two a penny round this part of the city...