Quirky Contemplations: The Old Man and the Mailbox

QC Koan:  Does a mailbox have Buddha nature?

The Old Man and the Mailbox

The man was old.  He felt he was dying and decided to retire to a well-supplied cabin deep in the woods.  He went off the grid, so to speak.  His only contact with the outside world was through his mailbox.  As part of his routine he dutifully went to check his mailbox daily (probably even on Sundays, as he lost track of the days).  Every day the mailbox was empty.

“Already, I’ve been forgotten.  It’s as if I was never here.”

Every day the journey to the mailbox seemed farther and farther until it hardly seemed worth the trip.

“I’ll go one more time,” he said to the clouds.

He opened the box and there was a letter inside.  He brought the letter into the cabin and put on his reading glasses.  “You may have already won $10,000,000!”

His head was swimming.  “How ironic that at the end of my life I finally strike it rich.”

Anxiety seized him.  How should he spend the money?  Perhaps he should make out a will.  Was there still time?

He looked out the window to talk with clouds.  They’d gone curiously mute.  How much time had passed?  He’d have to decide without them. He began to consider the magazines to which he would like to subscribe.  In the process, the mailbox transformed.  It became something of a magic box: You put one thing in, and eventually something else comes out.  Somehow, it reminded him of life after death, rather like clouds.

He only checked off a single magazine, something with birds in it.  He paid with actual cash.  Then he noticed an old phone book – his daughter had wanted him to put in a phone.  This led to his remembering the unopened box placed in the back of his closet, a small box of letters that his daughter had packed for him against his desire.  He looked inside.  It was like they were from another life, teasing him with memory.  He put his fingers through the letters as if sifting through sand.  That’s when he noticed that she’d actually included stamps and envelopes.

Something stirred.  Wind spoke with trees.  He was hearing it as if for the very first time.  His head was swimming with association – the letters he could write to old friends, strangers, erstwhile love, and discovered fantasy. One must treat a magic box like a holy relic, he decided. It suddenly didn’t matter if he’d won $10,000,000 or not.  What mattered was that he was going to…write his life a letter at a time.  He could send poems to random addresses he found in the phone book, send letters to dead friends – confessions that might inspire the living.  He could tell the world what clouds think.

And so the old man ambled out to the mailbox with that initial correspondence.

His beard trimmed…

The flag up…

Clouds preparing to baptize the sky.


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