There are so many things when I am walking that I no longer touch. I may see a leaf or I may see a stone, and these objects in the woods are so lovely I want to take them home. But I have learned to keep my hands still at my side. I have learned to see with my mind better, and look with my eyes. Even dead forked sticks that have fallen from far above, once I had sought to clean them up as I might clean up debris. But these suspended branches are really just hanging there in balance for a time. Nobody could position them as they are. Human hands are really no good for this. Instead, how long will this be so? Instead, what breeze is that? Instead, what life will bring a man at times to walk like this, and what events befallen him just as softly, gently sometimes to his knees?
We were festooned with leis. We were draped in scarves of many colors. We were seated on blankets, on hand-sewn kanthas, on silver-stitched carpets, on birch bark peelings wide enough for lovers, on just plain green grass. We had had our peace pipes and panpipes ready to smoke, and ready to play. We had had our minds all set to hear sacred and holy things. We had all gathered in the open field together to hear the great man speak. And just beyond our lowered heads, a little ways just across the right outfield of the town’s baseball diamond, just over that, just beyond the rusted iron fence, the just smiling Dalai Lama stretched out his robed arm and pointed to the ancient graveyard. “The final destination!” His Holiness said, before he had said a word.
There’s a rainstorm over the mountaintop faraway. The dark gray sky shows the shower pouring down. Were I there, I would be soaking, for sure. Perhaps, if I stood here forever, or a long long time, it would reach me. Of even that I’m unsure of. I can’t tell which way it’s moving; I can’t even feel the wind blowing any direction. Still, I carry on as I have without dread or warning over anything at all, mostly. At times, I must confess, I do wonder and worry some. These anxious moments pass as I watch the orange spots glowing on the sunny morning ground here, or hear the evening insects chanting songs whose names I’ll never know, and look over my own solitary heart right where I am. If anything really terrifies me, it would be the warm rain showers down atop me, and I to be above a mountain now looking down. Until that time may one day come, I roam still among the foothills, half-claiming to myself to be barely a goat-herder with goat songs to sing but not so many goats.
I am stranded without money. I am stranded without guidance anywhere. But that is not a dilemma I am very much concerned with. This is a huge island. There is everywhere to explore on it. I have heard rumors in the nighttime when I am drowsy that there are others here awaiting me, people whose lives don’t even overlap mine in any conceivable way, except that we are all here. None of us has much more than an old-fashioned Mercury dime, a thin silver disc of beauty, which to behold you would not spend anyway it is so beautiful. When I walked alone beside the lake in the morning, I saw a little red dock house on the other, far side of it. But there was no discernible dock. Just a little red empty house. Now of course I had thought it funny, too, to circumnavigate a lake inside an island itself, and it is. When I was walking back around, between the water and me, I saw a muddy ditch, and knew in an instant that that’s all all of this was, and it made me very happy in the instant that I saw and realized that, that shining muddy ditch showing itself back like that to me.
I know Blake meant some other thing, made by some other special hand. But every morning, just past dawn when the stray coyotes have left the cool night alone, and the black bears are huddled somewhere far away enough, my little black cat and I go walking alone in the woods. And I will venture just ahead, and she will scratch a tree, a trunk just outside the perimeter of the yard to mark it as hers, and to sharpen a bit more her already deadly claws. Then, walking ahead, I will turn around like Orpheus to see . . . but my little predatory Eurydice doesn’t flee, doesn’t vanish into the Underworld of Forever. She follows ever slowly, ever at her own steady pace. And so I, in turn, do not have to, like that poor defeated poet, grieve. Whither shall we go, I watch her emerald eyes pointing the way, a subtle inclination, up the embankment, or along the flatland. And we do. Me first, then her. And when we are far within the lovely wood, where another poet had claimed ‘twas dark and deep, she will find a large heap of rock some old dead farmer a hundred fifty years ago had piled up with slabs of useless bluestone to clear his land for once-grazing sheep (long before these forests grew) and sit and gaze. And I may wait, resting on another nearby stone or a stump some twenty minutes or so, until my little guru sidles back over to me. It is from her that I have learned patience. And it is from her to quietly breathe. I have learned to sit before the dawn’s first rays of light and wakeful birds and all the forest sounds everyday abounding in the trees, to sense and be myself the quiet rising from years of fallen leaves. She can be a little show off, darting straight fifteen meters up the side of an uprooted tree suspended at a forty-five angle degree in mere seconds. In the end, no matter where we go, and as we return home, there are two things I also keep in my regard: that I am her dearest protector and she, my little soft panther, has, out of her grace placed a day’s trust in me.
Whatever things come so, too, he knew these same things must depart. And to have ever believed that the comfort of one day could be predicted to remain the next, was only a mistake, though a human enough one. Time ago, he had wanted to have the belief that his mornings and evenings would be once a song of joyfulness and twice a prayer. They were neither that. Nor did they ever become any less or more predictably those committed to sorrow and grief. In darkness when he woke he could put on the wailing madness of Maria Callas singing as she would for the decades to come her mad lament—“Oh gioia che si sente e non si dice!”—and feel dawn’s private beauty. To music’s sweet betrayal, he could let the cat slip out the back door’s screen slid partially open. He could hear the water burbling just under boiling. The ferns would continue to march underground and spread their fronds. The birches would die. Crashes came at night. Clouds made cover. Whatever he felt, the day alone brings light to itself alone. Just so for the billions of all others all waking and sleeping elsewhere. No adhesion nor repulsion to anything. As for the birds flying back and forth from their feeder to nearby limbs, which once a week or so I filled with new seed, I saw I was to bear some witness to for a while.
The weed that was supposed to have been smoked ages ago, like two years, was still probably hanging around in the rosewood armoire somewhere. Back awhile, Shep had had somebody to smoke it with, but not any longer. There was one he would, and she’d just basically feel a hypersensitive physical acuity to all things involving the sense of touch that made her laugh. She’d get high and do repetitive motions with little sense of, it seemed, how many times she had already circled like a slow motion boxer her two fists in slo-mo replay mode. The stuff was lying around, unused, untouched, and he lit up. No, it’s not a passage to a higher realm of consciousness; it’s not acid. It was a verbal cerebral thing with him, depending, too, on what brand you had in your pipe.
They do all sorts of different things. But mainly it made him think in words which he would, if it were possible, write down. Or even audio record it, he’d done that, too. Now he was thinking about some girl he’d known a few crazy nights who’d had all these abstract esoteric ideas that he could actually go along with, but when she got to her Jesus stuff, he just as soon crossed his legs. The self-amusement of his loneliness made him think of her anyway. These were old shenanigans. They were all just old performances in old theaters he’d just be pretty much be going though the motions of, if he had. Worn out plays. They didn’t have the oomph. It’s just better to get just a bit mellow, scoop out a handful of Hägaan-Daz scoops of chocolate ice cream into a pretty-looking, red-checkered bowl from France, and lie back to watch a movie like Lawrence of Arabia which he’d just found out the day before became available to stream.