In the cold night of another winter he stares out across the barren fields which have long forgotten the taste of the sun. He watches carefully for a sign but the naked branch denies the breeze. He remembers how it once was in the heat of the dying fire the sweetness of her lips lingering on his tongue. She is gone, has been so long, her face is hidden by the gauzy veil of time. He awaits the edge of dawn that sleeps eternally beyond the horizon.
One of the obvious problems with growing older is the tendency to begin using phrases you always detested when young: “back in the day,” and it’s equivalents maddened you in your youth and are now a common element of your vernacular.
Worse still is the knowledge that the days which you seem to lovingly recall weren’t all that good as you lived them, rendered less so, you then believed, by your parents’ endless references to the good old days, when you knew that days were fixed periods, an astronomical phenomenon, and there was nothing the least bit good or bad about them.
But you stop and take solace that the grimaces of your grandchildren’s faces when you use the expression will one day, soon enough, be given over to their use.
Somewhere out there in a city struggling there is a man dancing in the reflected light of a street lamp to the sound of the wind, there is a couple caressing each other, wishing for just one cigarette, there is a baby calling for its mother for a meal, there is a car parked in a driveway its lights fading into the bleakness, there is a neon sign flashing OPEN into the void of night, there is a man sitting on a bed begging for sleep.
When I stood in Hemingway’s study in Key West, I was certain that the old Underwood portable probably had at least one if not more great novels in it, and I would gladly be the one to unburden it. Then I paused to wonder wouldn’t Ernest have taken his Underwood portable with him to Ketchum, Idaho, and how could Mary be sure none of his blood was splattered on to it, and if so the one in the study in Key West was probably bought at an antique store sold to them by some failed writer who had given up on it, or on writing, with no great literary works lying in wait, just the mundane, and I have long mastered that alone.
As I age, I more willingly accede to the sirens call of sleep for as night washes over me pulling up its blanket of stars she takes me on a voyage to destinations she will not disclose until our arrival. The journey may be pleasant or the seas of night can be roiling, but her grip is firm. But in her never certain world age can slough off, fall away until my body and its increasing frailties and limitations slip away and my youth is no longer a memory, but on this night or that, it is my new if transient reality. But I dare not cling to it, for the sun will intercede again and drag me back to the body I so willingly escape each night.
How long have you wandered about searching for the correct path? Clearly you have not found it but you refuse to give up the search certain it is there. Will you recognize it if you stumble across it? How do you decide where you should look? Look down, you are standing on it as you have been since you began.
A reflection on Case 2 of the Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku 碧巌録)
The lake is slowly receding, fading, the lake we created arrogantly assuming that when it came to nature, we could be godlike. It’s withdrawal has revealed cars, boats and bodies we had not expected there, put by intention or accident, laid bare by nature, once our devoted servant we imagined then a prophet we so callously ignored, now in a retribution carefully ordained, the angel of destruction visiting singular plagues of drought upon us, and we know there are other plagues in store unless we do what we should have some time ago, and we know we will collectively suffer for the obstinacy of the few who value greed so highly.
Chi-Chi was a cute peke in a very “runt of the litter” sort of way, cuddly but hardly the show dog her breeders had intended. I asked why she was called Chi-Chi and my father searched and showed me her AKC papers, with the full name that would’ve made those of Spanish royalty pause to consider the brevity of their seemingly endless names. She was a simple joy, followed me around like a furry ankle bracelet. She loved most everyone, she was loved in return, save for the always angry neighbor and for him she transmuted into a true lion dog of China guarding the gates of the palace.