I spent too much time looking backward, looking into the past, looking into the mirror to frame a dream history of my desires and fears. He called one morning, left a message, “Mother died, more details will follow.” A mother his by birth, mine by legal act. I should have felt stunned anger, I said quietly to myself he’s cocky, has issues, and went about momentary mourning. That is the psyche of the adoptee who was never family, always an adjunct. Later my antediluvian dreams gave way under a torrent of deoxyribonucleic acid rain. She who I imagined in the mirror took name, took shape from and old yearbook, offered a history, a family, a heritage. When I knelt at her grave she told me her story in hushed tones, or was it the breeze in the pines on the hill overlooking the Kanawha? I bid her farewell that day, placed a pebble on her headstone, stroked the cold marble and mourned an untouched mother.
In my next life I want to come back as a Great Blue Heron.
I will majestically stand by a lake, capturing fish, capturing the eye of all who wander by, pausing in awe and desire.
And I will have the one thing I know I now lack, that trait that has escaped me for far too many years, patience, the ability to stand and stare until the moment is right, then to act. I am not in a hurry for this reincarnation, so perhaps I have more patience than I realize.
We do not like to admit that nature laughs at us as we pretend to bend her to our will and desires.
We dam and reroute rivers, but the river knows well that it will return, flow where it wishes, for it will be here long after we have returned to the soil.
Still, now and again nature grows weary with our meddling and unleashes her fury in ways we are incapable of stopping, and laughs when we seek divine intervention from the utter depths of our powerlessness.
If you want a good conversation birds should be your first choice, wading birds at the top of the list, although you still have to be quick for if you meander they will lose interest.
Animals are to who you should turn if you need advice on getting through the omnipresent obstacles life raises to impede your smooth passage through it, but note cats tend to be pithy and easily bored.
Cows and horses in the fields have almost infinite patience, and listen when others would turn away, but note that they are easily distracted so it is best to keep a handful of hay at the ready always.
And, remember to bring your dictionaries for birds and animals will speak to you only in their own languages despite the fact that they fully understand yours, but do not deign or desire to be thought of as human.
Tonight, if all goes well, I will be a monk in a good-sized Buddhist temple. I am hoping it will be in Nara, at Todai-ji perhaps, or Asakusa at Senso-ji, or better still somewhere in Kyoto, although it might well be in the Myanmar jungle or somewhere deep within the Laotian highlands.
One problem with that world is that I have no control over it, which, come to think of it, leaves it like the waking world which has never hewn to my direction.
I’ve had this desire for weeks on end, and I suspect tonight will be no different, and I will spend eight hours sorting files, writing cease and desist letters and trying to convince myself that even that is a form of mindful meditation and abiding kensho will arrive in the next rapid eye movement.
My first inclination, in fact my strong desire, when he asks me what time it is, is not to consult my watch, but to say that we live in an age of unprecedented uncertainty, an era of division and incivility, and days fraught with risk that each might be the last.
I know he wants to know the hour and the minute, but if he is late, the moment wasted in knowing just how much so merely adds marginally to the problem.
And if the question lacks that import to him, then time is no more than a human construct, malleable despite our demand of rigidity, and subject to the whims of Popes and politicians, and all the rest of nature can only marvel at our absurdity.
He hangs on the guest room wall, simply framed in black, adjoining his more ornate, Cheshire- cat smiling sister. He isn’t brooding really, there is just a certain needful sadness, as he stares out, imagining how he pictured things would be, how they were supposed to be, realizing here, they never were, never will be, and although there is no failure, no blame, he wears it as his personal armor, still so easily pierced by dreams.