The notion of a separate organism is clearly an abstraction, as is also its boundary. Underlying all this is unbroken wholeness. – David Bohm
Afternoon sun gilded the room where my friend and I sat drinking tea. Tea – it suited her so well – a golden elixir melding and mellowed by years of natural refinement. We often sat in silence listening to the Songbirds lacing the treetops and blossomed brush. This day, however, held a ghost of blue – some other presence with a Mona Lisa smile.
I reached out and touched her hand, “You seem somewhere else.” She looked over at me and as she spoke, tapped her wooden chair, “At eighty-nine, I am more often elsewhere than here. The unseen keeps gaining ground. It’s like standing on the beach. Wave after wave, moment after moment, gradually pulls the sand from under your feet until you suddenly find yourself ankle deep, water swirling round and round carrying whispered voices of the past.” She paused, then added, “It’s all part of learning what it means to be nothing.”
I leaned forward, my mouth beginning to form words of protest, ready to pour forth how she was anything but “nothing,” how she had managed to check all the boxes of achievement over the arc of her rich, deep life- a loving family, academic accolades, the luxury of living in peace in the beauty of the land, and so on, but before I could say these things, she held her finger to her lips, signaling not to speak. “Being nothing,” she continued, “is a wonderful achievement. Realizing that I am nothing is an outstanding un-achievement – just like an Unbirthday.” Obviously, surprised and pleased with this image of the Mad Hatter’s Unbirthday party, she started to laugh, one of those laughs which rolls through the air catching everyone and everything with its contagious joy. We laughed and laughed until we were worn out, breathless, gasping sighs and streaks of tears. Only a handful of days later, she passed.
I had met her in my twenties, she in her fifties, and over the years our intersection evolved into entwined dialogue of soul. Our time together took place in that space beyond form so it was natural that while I feel the pinch of loneliness, missing the companionship we shared for so long, she has never left my side. The conversation continues, her words come with the wind passing through the chimes.
Now, I too, enjoy feeling like I am nothing. It is a familiar feeling, one that harks backs to childhood before the lacquer of ego took hold. It was easy to feel like nothing when you feel like everything – the Planaria and Water Skimmers in the creek, the Chickadees, heads cocked as I wound my way through Sycamore branches, azure blue enveloping and pressing down as I lay on the green, green grass of summer. Today, it is the brush of a Black-tailed Deer and glance of a Wild wondrous Turkey who open the door to nothingness as we enter side-by-side.
Photo credit: Igor Xandtork
~ Dedicated to Tommy ~
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