The mountain reaches up grasping clouds. The river no longer runs red down its flanks now traversed by a black ribbon twisting upward. The Hertz rental has a warning taped on the glove box driving above 5,000 feet is prohibited, and at the driver’s risk. The Minolta sits in the trunk as I deny the siren’s call.
FirstAppeared in Raconteur, Issue 3, January 1996.
In my dream, the world was at peace, and I was riding across Kansas on a unicycle, towing my car, packed to the windows, my dog walking alongside urging me to speed up because she wanted to visit South Dakota. I am due for a tricycle, I remind the dog, “the grave more likely,” she responds with a sneer that teeters between love and spite, always precariously balanced, as is her food bowl on the roof of the car. I could tell it was a dream which is not often easy from its midst, by the utter lack of churches, synagogues and mosques, none to be seen and the Great Blue Heron nesting in a scrub pine on the shreds of Holy Books.
It is a simple choice, she said, bicycles or a cat.
I wanted to tell her that there are no simple choices in the middle of a pandemic, and those that seem that way, to mask or not, to shop or not can be life or death choices.
I thought about the options for a few moments, remembered the cats I still mourn like children who never grew into adulthood and said, “Let’s get a cat, its safer by far and I will not be hit by a car riding a cat.”
The Buddha said that any task you do if done mindfully is a sort of meditation. We assume he said it, we’ve been told he did, but no one I know was anywhere near that bodhi tree, so we take it on faith. When it comes to things like chopping large quantities of onions, or roasting coffee beans I totally get it, it does seem like meditation, and deep at that. Walking the dog makes the list, and perhaps convincing the cat to do anything she didn’t think of by out waiting her. I can even accept washing the car or the dishes, but washing the dog is only so on rare occasions and only if I medicate her first, and the cat, forget it. But even Buddha would have to concede that no matter how totally mindful you are, driving anywhere in either Broward or Miami-Dade counties is as far from meditative as opting to commit sepuku with a butter knife.
Stuck in traffic yet again my mind wanders, unimpinged by the need to pay careful attention to the car on front also frozen in place. I am back in school listening carefully as the teacher explains the problem: “You are at point B and I am at point A. The points are 100 miles apart and we each leave for the other point at exactly the same time, 10:00 A.M., you driving at a constant 40 mile per hour, I at a constant 30 miles per hour. At exactly what time will we be able to wave to one another?” The car in front begins to move, ending my revery, so I cannot tell the teacher that we’ll never wave to each other because I am far too young to drive.