Dream at the Helm
Her eyes close. And so, my eyes may close. While she drifts out to sea, I float, still close to shore. May this rock her to sleep...
We walk earlier in the day. She carries her baby doll six blocks in a stubborn, devoted clutch. Sweat dots, crystal flashes, above her lip. My girl, almost two.
Tibetan nuns whisper in my ear, their melodic syllables weave through this tight mesh of muscle; mid-back down to the sacrum, pain, taut and inflamed. When the massage therapist runs her elbow down the highway on each side of the spine, she gasps, “Ok, feel this? These are supposed to be three separate muscles, moving in relationship to the others.” I hold my breath, remember – Let go, Prema – and try to give up my post, the one where I hold a thousand boxes on my back, in my mind. But in the final letting down, bone to table, a fan of nerve-lightning spreads until I hold again. “On you it’s a bed of rocks,” she moans, and continues to grunt, making sound affects for the tight spots. “Thanks, I get it.”
Face down on the table, I am in the air, over the Atlantic, looking down upon a bug in the landscape. In this direction and that, the expanse of green pasture, vividly burning color of forest, but flat, unpeeled, rolled out for miles and miles. Ireland. Suddenly I am wet. I drop down through rain, through thick milky clouds, out into open blue. Down below, closer now, I see a woman. She is alone, small on a wide stretch of road. Head down, heavy-footed. She carries a backpack in the rain, soaked through. She cries. She prays. I hear her. But the words are not new to me. They are my words, spoken twenty years ago, utterly bare.
I hover above her. My eyes blur with the recognition that I am looking at myself; young woman who walks the world. Shipwrecked.
What can I tell her? As far back as I can see, ruin. Gazing ahead through time, great falling. What can I tell her?
So I call out, first to my friend the wind. Next to the old winged-ones. Finally, to the elixir in the blood of plants that I know. Together they arrive; birds deliver medicine, carried by the wind. And they have a message.
The girl looks up – she hears, no she feels, no, she is embraced by a sensation of many arms around her torso. Dear One, all is well. Keep your faith. Let these tears show you a river. All your people traveled down it, and they hold you now as you walk down this lonely road. Feel the path. Find the way. Know how it feels to fall, and in falling, pay attention to the way it feels to rise slowly in appreciation.
She decides to sit down in the wet grass – no rides today – and settles into reading the one book she carries in her bag. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. She reads further into teachings about quality, but hearing throaty, Himalayan horns, she soon falls asleep. The Tibetan nuns sing to her even then.
I awaken with a start. Lavender on the forehead, I peel the eye pillow slowly away, and swim, swim, swim back to this place, this room, this table. It takes a full sixty seconds to figure – how to move?
I drive three blocks home, sun down. Brilliant red, the best kind of blood-like red, shimmers on trees. Autumn fire, I say out loud to myself. When I walk in the door, I say, “River, look, the trees, the sun, the indigo sky!” She laughs, takes my hand, and leads me to her cavalcade – musical caterpillar, elephant, pumpkin-head basket, all in line. We walk in circles around the house, again and again, until it’s time for music. We dance and dance and dance, me on my knees, ballroom style. She shakes her head side to side, tilts and rattles so that hair is ablaze.
But now she must be off the radar, and me, I’m off the radar, too. Soon to retire, in many ways and forms, I shall meet her – in a place I cannot say, cannot speak of, do not know until I drift out beyond myself.
For all the obstinance of the day, all the failed moments of tact and chances for gracefulness; for all the anger and hours of habit, have mercy. Mercy for the lineage of women in the boat. Mercy for that young, strong-willed woman. Mercy for the men on the other end of all the wrath. And mercy,mercy for the barely budding one who has not the width of one of my hands to hold a piece of this story and make any sense of it.
She is my river as I am in the great river. Together, may we be indelibly held, in this, my bedtime story.