Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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4 AM under the big top, a prison cat, the highest pleasure
You are the Ancient One. Everything that ever was, is, or will be is part of the dance of your being. You are all of the universe, and so you have Infinite Wisdom; you appreciate all of the feelings of the universe, so you have Infinite Compassion.
That which God said to the rose, and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty, He said to my heart, and made it a hundred times more beautiful.
Yet I remind people that what’s referred to as a single tree-sitting action was, for me, 738 separate days: twenty-four hours in a day; sixty minutes in an hour; sixty seconds in a minute. It was the moment-by-moment process that transformed me.
Books lift us out of the smallness of the present and into history, out of the smallness of ourselves and into humanity. Most readers favor modern books, equating old with irrelevant. But just as a phrase in one’s native language jumps from a page of foreign text one is struggling to translate, familiar passions jump from the strange depictions of earlier times.
A few weeks ago they were still in the house they’d always lived in, but their dad and I were never both home at once; we took turns living there and caring for them. Maybe, we thought, the kids wouldn’t notice the change. But now there’s no disguising it.
In sixth grade I played football in rural Ash Creek, Arizona. My family had just moved there from a suburb of Phoenix, and my only prior experience with football had been when my dad would toss one around with my two younger brothers and me, drilling me in the chest with hard passes.
For the last seven years, my father and I have kayaked a thirty-six-mile portion of Oregon’s Rogue River each August. We run the river in an inflatable kayak, him reading the water and me providing the manpower to paddle the boat through world-class rapids.
My ninety-two-year-old grandmother died on August 1, 2009, after a long decline. I wasn’t there during her last moment. Nobody was. The nursing home said she died at 1:45 PM, which is when the nursing-home attendants — underpaid women in practical shoes, with pictures of toddlers in their pockets — had gone about their routine bed checks, entered her room, and found she was no longer breathing.
An inventive imagination was a gift of the gods — or a curse if you couldn’t control it. Elsie would sometimes start talking, telling a story, say, and get so carried away, piling it on so thick, flying off on so many tangents, that she might as well have been speaking in tongues. If you pointed this out to her, her response would be to clam up.