I walk along the road. It’s countryside and about 3:30 in the afternoon, and spring is on its way and I am wearing a long wooley gray coat that I have gotten compliments on for years, a coat my mother saw in a consignment shop and bought for me back when I was living in the ashram. I’m also wearing a soft red scarf that Fred gave me for Christmas a few years ago. I always think of him when I put it on. I think it was sort of expensive when he gave it to me and I already had a couple of red scarves but he saw it, I guess, and liked it and gave it to me without thinking about whether or not I needed a red scarf, and for years I kept it carefully folded with my sweaters instead of just letting it hang on a hook in the messy coat closet, until this year when I started treating it like a scarf and it seems no worse for wear.
I have left the office late in the afternoon just to take a walk. I didn’t walk with Tamar this morning. Usually she and I go out after breakfast, but today I took it easy. She came to the front of the house at the time when we usually go and saw pretty quickly that weren’t going today. She accepts it, doesn’t whine or beg. I know that if I were to go get the leash out of the basket with the handle that holds all the cans of catfood, she would go delirious with barking, run to the front door, releasing all her excitement to go for a walk in the woods, but the leash isn’t reached for this morning so she ducks her head and goes back to the living room or back to catch a few more winks with Fred.
This morning when I went back to find the Harpers magazine that I thought would go nicely with my morning cup of tea, Tamar was sleeping on the floor on Fred’s side of the bed. Usually she’s on my side, and sometimes Fred hints that he wants a dog for whom he is the prime focus, but this morning Tamar was assuring him that she has his best interests at heart most of the time.
It is quiet on the wooded road where I walk and warm enough to be comfortable without a hat or gloves. It is a pleasure to be out of the office. I pass the small farm I have been passing all winter. I see a human being there for the first time. I think about waiting for her to come close enough to ask her the names of the two bassett hounds who live there, but think better of it. I’d have to wait too long. But I see there are chickens on the farm now. I hear a rooster, and I hear the donkey braying. I would like to know these animals better.
The last few days I have turned the radio off in my car and driven in quiet. Something I haven’t done for a long time. I don’t pray in words and I don’t meditate with the iron-clad discipline I learned in the ashram. But I do something. It’s almost like I try to notice and be with the layer that is not about getting to work on time or late, the layer that doesn’t worry about money or health, but a layer that has a trust in it, a calmness.
As I walked this afternoon, again seeking out, but in a gentle way, this calmness, I thought how years ago when I left the ashram I put an end to all words like “god” and anything I couldn’t see. I’d spent a long time believing fervently in things I couldn’t see and I’d had enough. Fuck that shit.
Something gentle is seeping back in. I am still careful. I have many friends who take a lot of things for granted: crazy healing schemes, pendulums, crystals, astrology and – worst of all – anyone who claims to be a teacher. I wish they’d be more cautious.
So I am still cautious. But I am also alert to what might really be true for me, or helpful to me as I navigate this strange segment of life with this almost fantasy world I work in to earn a check and health insurance, my two-sides-of-the-river life: writing and home on one side, crazy fantasy world on the other – a world that can’t just be dismissed, a world that is also some kind of place for me to expand.
I said to Fred the other day that my job – that I’ve had for five months now – is kind of like going to high school all over again, except I’m not the shy kid anymore who can’t speak because she’s so self-conscious.
I used to listen to people in high school Everything they said sounded stupid to me. Yet I deeply envied them that they could speak. It wasn’t fair. What they said was stupid, but I knew what I said was even worse – it was awkward. At least they seemed tat ease with their ignorance. That’s what it felt like.
I have a pink spiral notebook from 1985 or so. It’s the oldest writing I have. Not that old, but I don’t have any of my writing from before then. But somehow I still have this notebook. Now and then – every couple years – I look at it. I am in