On My Behalf (45)

One-day retreat at the meditation center. First two surprises: a silent retreat and “custody of the eyes.” I keep my eyes down except for three accidental glances, feel like a mouse scurrying by in the long grass. It amuses me. In the parking lot, looking at the southern mountains and eating my soup, it comes to me that I could break into wild winged dancing and waving of clothing, unseen (like the mouse). Our teacher breaks the silence now and then. She is calm, open, funny. Once she speaks of our soft animal bodies, and I think of the poem. She is like that to me, a soft animal, a big, peaceful bird, maybe, a brown pelican, part big cat, too, sleeping in the sun. While we sit I feel again the hard weight in my chest. I am reading Andre Norton now, and I think of quan iron, blue-green, touched by magic. A blade of quan iron inside my ribcage. I am fascinated by it, cultivating curiosity. I want to know it, sidestep the urge to be rid of it. I am certain it has worked long and hard on my behalf. I want to honor it. The fourth time we sit I feel so strong it surprises me, and when I check on the quan iron it’s as though my chest is in a different place than it was in the morning. When I come home I can tell there is much more room inside me. The next day, it is gone, but I remember how I felt larger. And I remember how strong I felt in that one sitting, like I was a big oak, or that tree whose name I don’t yet know with the gnarled bark who makes those big blossoms in the fall that litter the ground like starfish.

2 thoughts on “On My Behalf (45)

  1. I went on a Silent Retreat at New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur during Spring Break a few years ago. I was there alone for four days — the first time in my life I was silent for such a long period of time. I learned many things about myself: primarily, that I will never be silent for such a long period of time. :-)

    But your descriptions and eye for detail are breathtaking… Editors are accepting these, right? If not, then you and I need to talk. Maybe we need to talk regardless. I remember seeing you across the auditorium the first time I was at the PT Orientation in… 2004, maybe. You were wearing a Panama hat and a brightly colored sundress-kind-of-thing. If I had known then what I know now, I would have crossed the room and given you a very very very long hug.

  2. I just came across this hermitage when I was Googling “custody of the eyes”!

    I have not tried yet to get anything published (except a couple of times in The New Yorker!). So far I have just entered contests. I do keep thinking it may be time to try simply for publication, but I don’t see to have arrived there yet. And I’d love to talk about this with you, Bart. Thank you.

    And as to the hat and the sundress—how fun is that to hear that memory of me??!!? I love that you would now give that gal a very (very) long hug. I accept gladly on her behalf! :)

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