The great blue heron stares at the shirred surface of the pond, paying no attention to the ibis pecking around her, ignoring the traffic passing on the road, pausing now and again to marvel how the humans on foot and in cars cannot see that on a November day the quiet stillness of the water is actually nirvana.
There is a moment just after the prior moment, when the ticking of the clock on the nightstand is amplified, reverberating off the skylights, when the heat of your body is a blanket from which I never wish to emerge.
He has just turned two.
He sits on my lap one hand clapping mine, for each of us a moment of Zen in ways no one can understand, since neither he nor I do. His laugh promises something, a future of moments like this, and yet never the same. “It is our river,” his smile says, “and you only imagine your feet are wet.”
The Buddha died peacefully in his sleep last night in the Emergency Room of Cook County Hospital, his passing was noted by a surgical resident passing by the partially drawn curtain en route to the Doctor’s Lounge after two hours of meatball surgery on a young man with multiple gunshot wounds who bled out anyway despite efforts to save him. The nurse thought it odd that the old man was draped in a saffron gown, not the usual green put on patients who linger past initial triage, but she tossed it in the hamper with the others and gathered his few belongings into the plastic bag which would accompany his body to the morgue. The orderly found nothing odd in the man on the gurney wrapped in a fresh, almost white sheet except that he was remarkably heavy and yet the gurney flowed across the tile floor as though it held merely feathers cast off by a bird startled into flight. The morgue attendant paused for a moment logging in the new body, looking carefully at a face, clearly Hispanic, and copying the name from the wrist tag, Gautama, but then he shrugged and thought perhaps he was Mexican for his name was one he never heard in his Puerto Rico.
I met the Buddha this morning on the corner of Michigan and Ontario standing against the corner of Saks Fifth Avenue. He was dressed in an ill-fitting ochre shirt which seemed somehow lighter against his ebony skin, in the guise of a blind man, white cane against his hip. He leaned forward as I approached, proffered the paper advocating justice, peace and harmony, and said “you are near to the path”, although his lips never moved. Most passers-by arched around him, as though he might step forward and compel them to take his flyer, many diverting their eyes lest they look into his and find whatever it was that they feared at the moment. A few looked for a cup or hat into which to pitch the coins they had plucked from their pockets, purses, but there was none to be found and they walked on, puzzled. I stopped for a moment, dipped my head and said “thank you master”. He bowed slowly from the waist, back stiff and smiled.