Somewhere along the line I lost my footing and now I can’t get purchase, I am floundering. I call for help.
“It takes time.” The voice is old and clear.
“Yes I respect that. It’s just that I’m pretty overwhelmed by all the recent events right now. Can I not jettison some of the input? Just kind of scrape it off me somehow?”
“It takes time.” The voice is old and clear and stern.
Still I’m going too fast to heed the warning. “Yes. I understand that, but I can’t always space things out as much as I’d like. Sometimes things just happen, one after another with no breathing room in between. I was hoping maybe you could help me, teach me some way to recover when things get to be too much for me.”
“You want shortcuts? You want easy? This is not a negotiation. It takes time.”
I see him then, wrapped in browns, a length of robe draped over his head. From this cave of a hood he looks out at me. I know him then. He is my Hermit and he has come for me and I am glad. He turns and walks away and I follow.
I understand now that I must accept the answer of time, but I want to ask how I’m supposed to pass the time while I’m waiting. I think I will wait a bit before posing the question.
The Hermit walks before me, I follow. We climb a narrow path through grasses, up a hill. After a bit he turns to face me. “You’re following me?”
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you follow me into darkness? Would you follow me over thresholds?”
I think it is a test and I don’t know the right answer. “I will follow where you lead me, but I sure would like to get cleaned up first. I’m a mess.” There’s mud in my hair and coating my arms and across my chest. Some still wet and clumpy, some drying and stiff.
“Follow me to the shower then.”
He leads me into the woods. “A waterfall?” I imagine a sweet cascade.
“No. A shower.” He’s got a solar shower rigged up, water in a canvas bucket. I pull the handle, a prudent stream of water washes over me. I am cleaned.
“A waterfall would have been more water than you needed.”
But it wasn’t about my comfort. It was about a sense of prudence. I need to learn to take, in careful measure.
He sets off down a road and I follow. I am meant to walk as he walks. He goes excruciatingly slowly. I see how extreme slowness breaks the grip of things on me. I feel myself expand in the focus of lifting a foot, carrying it forward, setting it down.
I think this is the opportunity to let go of things that are clogging my system. I think: I will let the noise of it all go, but the gems in the lot I will keep hold of. I open negotiations with the stuff, I say: If I let you go, and I shouldn’t have, then come back to me. I say: If you’re important, then make yourself known to me and I will keep hold of you.
The Hermit turns on me scolding. “There are no conditionals. Either you let things go or you don’t. Either you follow me or you don’t. No conditionals. No negotiations.”
“Of course it’s hard.” He doesn’t care one way or another which I choose, to follow or not. He turns to resume his walk. He puts total consciousness into each move, each shift of weight, each breath. He feels the ground beneath his foot and the pivoting of his weight as he shifts forward. This is the key, to pull completely into the present, the experience of the present. “The past and future are saddlebags thrown across this moment. You don’t need them. Let them go.”
I slow myself to match him. I follow. Everything expands as I narrow my focus on just this.
After some time I turn my head to look up the hill.
“If we are turning,” he instructs, “we will turn with our whole focus, not just a glance of the head.” We stop, turn our feet to face the hill, we keep our knees over our feet, our hips over our knees our shoulders over our hips. Our eyes start from the point just in front of our toes and climb the hill while our weight rests easy on our feet. Our eyes move up the rocky ground, through the grasses and the brush and into the treeline, up the rise of the trunks to the skyline and into the sky where a hawk is circling.
The Hermit and I make another quarter turn, looking back down the road we have come up. The way is filled with boulders, the way is filling up behind us, there is no going back. We make another quarter turn and there is the lake, black water cupping sky.
I remember being lake water.
I give myself back to the lake. On the far shore Buffalo Man stands waiting. When the time comes, he will hold out his hand and pull me up to stand with him. He will remember me to myself. But for now I am this, black water holding sky.
I understand that I am shaped by who perceives me, I step into the reflection of that perception. Not essentially untrue, just brushed like iron shavings to a magnet — these particular highlights, this emphasis. Some things picked out to shine and other things held hidden. It’s different when I’m alone, when there’s only myself and the world to perceive me.
I see too that when I am not remembering Buffalo Man, when I am forgetting him, I am remembering something else, remembering this, myself, black water holding sky. It is forgetting one that allows remembering the other. It’s good to be here.
I will return to Buffalo Man soon, and gladly, but first I will finish this conversation begun with the stillness of deep waters.
On the road the Hermit moves on, one slow knowing step at a time. In the falling dusk he raises his hand as a lantern. He doesn’t need the light to see his way. The light is for me.