Tuesday, April 05, 2005

One's Balance In Spring

Ivy Clear, Donna Silva, and Robert Blankshine show perfect balance in Gloria Contreras' ballet "Moncayo I" for the Joffrey, 1966 Posted by Hello

I have lived on the lip
Of insanity, wanting to know the reasons,
Knocking on the door. It opens.
I've been knocking from the inside!

---Jalaluddin Rumi

After all, if I can't be myself, who can?

---Auntie Mame

Behind Ise Shrine,
unseen, hidden by the fence
Budhha enters Nirvana


Thirty-five years ago, in through April somewhere probably, a tradition of tonic and renewal began in my life, which I continued yesterday---though it appears to have changed drastically. Well I'm 65 now, I was 30 then. In 1970 or so, Ivy Clear and I took a drive into the Catskill Mountains, west of where we were living outside New York. It might have been around Margaretville...or maybe it was further up into the Adirondacks. We frequently were in a celebratory mood when we ventured out into Nature, and usually it didn't matter quite where we were.

At any rate we drove up and down some back road deep in a forest, and as the Spring day was mild and beautiful we parked the car and plunged into the wilderness. The woods seemed dark and ancient...huge trees and boulders planted by a massive glacier. Granite and the new green of another year engulfed us, when suddenly there was a ravine. Deep in the gorge, far below, was a crashing stream---and from one side to the other lay a fallen tree. It had to be an oak, big and sturdy, and the ravine was not all that far across...and we, not being of the soundest mind at the time, decided we should go across. It was far enough down that, had either of us fallen, we'd have been hurt bad---so the only solution of course was not to fall. I'm not sure I remember how Ivy got across, but I think she went first...and probably managed it as I did: sort of hugging and inching along.

The mania just described is not the tradition. What followed was relief and joy...and so of course the only thing for me to do was get to that stream, take off my clothes and jump in. Now, mountain streams in April that far north are a true jolt to the system. I tell you the force and temperature of that water was a reminder of just how alive I really am! After that every year I have tried to get into a stream each April around the time the first butterfly is to be seen. A couple years later it was white water rafting in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. That dip wasn't planned exactly. Another time I was waste-deep in an underground river while caving. I began to notice the activity was becoming a ritual, and one that was good and that I looked forward to.

And so it was that yesterday I took some kitchen compost down the back path to the garden, a bed of which Dana just had dug to plant peas in a couple days at the New Moon. I tossed the leftovers into another area, set down the container and walked the few feet over to our stream. We have 3 and sometimes 4, when the water really is running, that go through the property. This is the main stream we use for the garden, and which later feeds our well. It has been raining and sleeting and snowing a little for the last week, since we got back from Arizona. It's been cold and miserable...but yesterday things had brightened and though winds blew with March bluster, it was a nice day. The creek was really moving, and it's only a few feet across so I stepped over. Jeroch had helped us build a little bridge across, which I've had to reinforce a couple times. (It only washed away once.)

On the other side is a clearing we've made, where we can picnic in seclusion and I can hang my hammock. No thought of my tradition had entered my mind. At another point down the stream a little, I've thrown a log across. There are blackberries and elderberries in there. I looked at that log and wondered if it was still strong enough. I put my foot on it, just to test it a little, when suddenly the bark slimed off it and I lost footing. My right foot dug for the bank...which was mud, and down I went. A few rose briars went part way and then remained behind, scratching as only they can, when I felt the first swell of water into my trousers. These were new Sunday go-to-meetin' pants I'd worn only once I think. But I was more concerned that I felt my wallet and all my IDs in for the soaking. That was a new Western shirt I'd just bought at Spurs in Tucson, but now Spring water was slushing into the collar and down my spine. Surprisingly the water wasn't that cold...but the papers in my wallet prevented my lounging there, so out I got and up the hill bedraggled I walked.

I've always had some pride in my balance and the fact that I don't fall down much. I only broke one bone about 20 years ago...and that doesn't count. But I've noticed lately my reaction time has picked up a delay. A couple years ago, I was playing baseball and decided to steal 3rd base. I remember distinctly the beat between my brain's command and my body's response. That didn't used to be there. Hmmmm. And as I walked through the living room this evening after a refreshing shower, Dana noticed something else that didn't used to be there. "What are those 2 black and blue marks on your behind, dear?" Reminders, I guess, to change the tradition a little and respect the stream bed more. Well, the story is---er---out so I figured I might as well write it.

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