I approach it slowly, overcome by fear and desire, warned to step carefully over the uneven earth that on this hillside haven set behind the rusting wrought iron fence , its master lock dangling askew, peers out through the trees to the Kanawha river flowing unknowingly through the valley.
The stone is set in line with the others, neatly incised, a name, English and Hebrew, two petunias, cornered, in perpetual bloom, a beloved sister and aunt, and unstated, unknown perhaps, a mother whose son, gently touching the stone, washes her with my tears, and we speak of love in silence, and I, a child of sixty-seven, embrace my mother for the first time, and I am finally and for the first time, complete
They speak of me, never to me, with terms like breakage, as though life, mine at least, is a glass bottle on a shelf with so many others, and a certain percentage are pre- assumed to break and be discarded and no one will bat an eyelash.
To them I am nameless, one of many, stock in trade, with no provenance, or at least none they would grant me, and they question my origins, as though I may not be worthy enough to even be considered as future breakage.
I want to remind them that they invited me here, invited so many others, that we are here because it was one place we were going to be allowed, but they have grown deaf, and blind, and I must wait until they, too, soon, are swept from the shelf and placed in clearance, then discarded.
There was a time, still within memory’s ever more tenuous grasp that I imagined myself, at this age, as a monk in a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, that I had assumed a silence imposed by lack of language, not faith.
I am certain that the Japanese are pleased that I let that dream pass unfulfilled, that I confine my practice to that American form of Zen, softened and gently bleached from its shogun watered roots.
I recall my visits to Senso-ji, Todaii-ji and countless other small temples where I would often find a zafu and sit, but only the youngest monks I met could understand that it was there, among them, that I felt spiritually at home.
Do those, who imagine themselves leaders, or smarter and better than the rest of us, and who deny science, (no, the amassing of money is not a law of physics) plan to take up swimming?
Or will they wait until the bears are at their door, their white coats grayed by the last belches of soggy coal, and then bemoan the fact that their yachts have floated off on the rising seas that now lap at their once beach view feet.
It’s no matter to most of the people of the world who starved to death or died of disease years ago.
Each morning, once I have completed the often unpleasant task of dragging myself from the womb of blankets, I make my appearance in front of the mirror.
I stare closely into it, and am unsurprised to find it returning my stare, and on every occasion, I notice that the mirror has once again chosen to wear the same clothes as I, albeit not as well or stylishly, no doubt the result of its limited sense of dimensions.
It is odd that I know so well what the mirror looks like, how it masquerades as this or that until it can no longer hope to avoid me, and yet despite its familiarity, I have no idea at all what I really look like anymore.
He would arrive as I was still struggling to convince the dog that he didn’t need to drag me around the neighborhood, that he knew the backyard well enough.
I’d lose the argument in the end, that was a given, but he’d concede me enough time to wolf down breakfast, and I’d hear the small door in the wall open and then the clatter of bottles that the milkman deposited there.
Now it’s paper cartons from the grocery, the dog and several successors are now in whatever Valhalla is set aside for canines, and I suspect I may be getting lactose intolerant, which has nothing at all to do with how I now spend my mornings, with toast and a cortado on the patio, deep into my New York Times, trying to remember my long-gone youth.