Butterflies Over the Golden Mustard Fields
For ten years
we had a beautiful green garden.
For twenty years
the sun always shone on our thatched roofs.
My mother came out and called me home.
I came to the front yard
near the kitchen
to wash my feet
and warm my hands over the rosy hearth,
waiting for our evening meal
as the curtain of night
fell slowly on our village.
I will never grow up
no matter how long I live.
Just yesterday, I saw a band
of golden butterflies fluttering above our garden.
The mustard greens were bursting with bright yellow flowers.
Mother and sister, you are always with me.
The gentle afternoon breeze is your breathing.
I am not dreaming of some distant future.
I just touch the wind and hear your sweet song.
It seems like only yesterday that you told me,
"If one day, you find everything destroyed,
then look for me in the depths of your heart."
I am back. Someone is singing.
My hand touches the old gate,
and I ask, "What can I do to help?"
The wind replies,
"Smile. Life is a miracle.
Be a flower.
Happiness is not built of bricks and stones."
I understand. We don't want to cause each other pain.
I search for you day and night.
The trees grope for one another in the stormy night.
The lightning flash reassures them
they are close to one another.
My brother, be a flower standing along the wall.
Be a part of this wondrous being.
I am with you. Please stay.
Our homeland is always within us.
Just as when we were children,
we can still sing together.
This morning, I wake up and discover
that I've been using the sutras as my pillow.
I hear the excited buzzing of the diligent bees
preparing to rebuild the universe.
Dear ones, the work of rebuilding
may take thousands of lifetimes,
but it has also already been completed
just that long ago.
The wheel is turning,
carrying us along.
Hold my hand, brother, and you will see clearly
that we have been together
for thousands of lifetimes.
My mother's hair is fresh and long.
It touches her heels.
The dress my sister hangs out to dry
is still sailing in the wind
over our green yard.
It was an autumn morning
with a light breeze.
I am really standing in our backyard--
the guava trees, the fragrance of ripe mangoes,
the red maple leaves scurrying about
like little children at our feet.
A song drifts from across the river.
Bales of silky, golden hay
traverse the bamboo bridge.
As the moon rises above
the bamboo thicket,
we play together
near the front gate.
I am not dreaming.
This is a real day, a beautiful one.
Do we want to return to the past
and play hide-and-seek?
We are here today,
and we will be here tomorrow.
This is true.
Come, you are thirsty.
We can walk together
to the spring of fresh water.
Someone says that God has consented
for mankind to stand up and help Him.
We have walked hand in hand
since time immemorial.
If you have suffered, it is only
because you have forgotten
you are a leaf, a flower.
The chrysanthemum is smiling at you.
Don't dip your hands into cement and sand.
The stars never build prisons for themselves.
Let us sing with the flower and the morning birds.
Let us be fully present.
I know you are here because I can look into your eyes.
Your hands are as beautiful as chrysanthemums.
Do not let them be transformed
into gears, hooks, and ropes.
Why speak of the need to love one another?
Just be yourself.
You don't need to become anything else.
Let me add one testimony of my own.
Please listen as if I were
a bubbling spring.
And bring mother. I want to see her.
I shall sing for you, my dear sister,
and your hair will grow as long as mother's.
By Thich Nhat Hanh
First photo taken by my sister, Suzan Deane-Simpson
Second photo taken my myself, Elizabeth Munroz