It is cold and not cold at the same time, the sun moving in and out of clouds, the wind whipping up from time to time, but the colors always extra clear in the moments of strong sunshine – white rock, new green leaves, lilac blossoms fragrant, pale and dark in places.
I walk with Fred, taking it allin. We walk slowly. It is a way to be together. When I am alone I walk quickly – not always at full clip, but I never walk slowly. I never amble.
But in this walk I am content to move differently, to stay connected as we move through the trees on the wide path, other people passing from time to time. Tamar the dog runs ahead, looks back to make sure we’re still there, then runs again. She too is happy to be in a new landscape, one she doesn’t know at all.
“Do you mind walking this slow?” Fred asks. He’s much more fond of this pace than I am. “No, this is good,” I say, and really I am glad to be together here.
I have many memories of this place that I have known for almost 20 years, and as I walk I remember being here with other people – the first time was with my two sisters and my mother. Anasuya brought us here that day, the sister who was living in the ashram then. I had only just moved in. I felt like the younger sister because she was so confident. She knew the ashram, she even knew this beautiful place to bring us to.
As I walk with Fred I remember that day, mostly the photographs we took. My mother wanted photos of all three girls together. Anasuya led the way all day. She had been bossing us around for 15 years since the day she took us by surprise and swallowed a bottle of pills while we were all in the house with her. She scared the hell out of us though none of us knew that.
So we trod carefully around Anasuya. When my mother asked us to pose for the photographs, Anasuya struck a goofy pose and Esther and I followed her lead. I have these photos. I can see my forced smile that is supposed to say I am having fun, that my sisters and I knew how to have fun together. I will go to any extent she asks of me to prove this is true. I don’t care about anything else. I am ready to throw myself away.
As Fred and I are nearing the end of our walk – after we have sat on white rocks and looked out over the whole valley and I have asked Fred to take pictures of me and Tamar, realizing as I ask him that it is new for me to ask for photos, usually I take them.
I don’t want to get to the end of the long oval trail, and I let our pace get even slower. Fred begins to tell me about the book he is reading about a man who almost became a priest and I am so glad that Fred is talking because often I know his mind is full though he isn’t speaking, so I am glad that he is spontaneously telling me about what’s in this book except now we are walking even more slowly and I feel my old impatience rising. I want to go a little faster, but I can’t because I am with Fred I think – and suddenly I am with my father and he is walking much more slowly than me and he is talking at me as if he cannot see me about the book he is reading, and I am pulling inside to race ahead and escape, but I can’t, I must stay here, crawling, and I can’t tell anyone because I am feeling the wrong thing.
Now I want to get to the car immediately. I am tired. I am not interested in the little girl who wants to pet Tamar. I am cold. Fred mentions the color of the water and I respond with a distracted word or tow. I want this all to be over. I want to sit, be warm. I want tea and cake.
“Do you want to walk down to the waterfall?” Fred asks. Another walk? Is he crazy? “I can’t,” I say. “I’m sorry. I’m just suddenly out of energy.”
Fred looks a little disappointed and I feel I am cutting something short, but I don’t know what else to do. We get in the car and Fred asks me to drive down a lane to the side to find the place he parked once in the eighties – I am sure we won’t find what he is looking for, everything is in the wrong place, he keeps saying things I am sure are wrong.
“Why are you objecting to everything I say?” he asks, and I realize maybe it’s not just all him.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t know.”