Sand Gets In-Between Your Toes

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by DCH Park

By Skip willits (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“I don’t remember what day of the week it was, but it must’ve been a Saturday or Sunday. I used to work a nine-to-five job back then and I remember spending the whole day with you. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t the weekend.”

Jefferson was listening to his father. It was getting late in the afternoon. The sunlight on the floor was decidedly angled and creating shadows that stretched halfway across the room. He looked at the window. He couldn’t see the sun yet but it would probably shine through the glass soon. He shifted slightly so that when it did it wouldn’t shine in his eyes.

“My boss wouldn’t have allowed that…” His father was still talking. “It’s funny though. I can remember spending time with you like it was yesterday. Even from something like this, from when you were a little, tiny person, but I can’t even remember his name…”

After a moment, he continued, “You’d think if I remembered anything, it’d be his name…” He thought about it, losing sight of the here and now.

“Hm. I guess that’s as good an indication as any of what’s really important. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend with someone or trying to do something. The things you remember, the things that’re important, stand out. They come back easily and clearly, even if they only occupy a single moment in time.”

They sat in silence as that unfolded. Henry’s eyes glinted a tiny bit. They were facing each other in a drawing room. Their over-stuffed chairs were soft and inviting. Jefferson saw his dad run his hand over the upholstery of the chair arm, admiring its texture. He noticed that he was rubbing his hand over the upholstery, too. How long had that been going on?

He noticed the smell that lingered over the place. It was like a palpable thing that had, for reasons of its own, moved into the house; an invisible resident of the house, always present, never seen. His dad didn’t seem to notice.

He supposed that every living thing had to have its own smell. After all, bloodhounds had to smell something and there were two people living in the house now – his father and step-mother. Did he have a smell? He supposed that he had to. That thought bothered him. “What about that weekend, dad? What stands out for you?”

“Hm…” Henry let the conversation dangle as he rummaged through his memories. He was silent for so long that Jefferson almost said something but just as he was about to speak up, Henry continued. “Sand. I remember sand. And the smell of the ocean. What do you remember?”

“I don’t remember anything of that day.”

“Yeah, I guess you were about 1½. Probably too young. It was before we moved across country. We were still in New York. I don’t know where your mother was that day. I guess I was already doing things alone with you, even though she and I were years away from the divorce.”

He paused. The divorce had been a sore subject once, but that had been a long time ago. Henry was fine now. He had been for a long time. He had gotten used to the fact that his first marriage had failed. In fact, that failure was a vital part of his growth. The divorce itself was a part of a healing process that had led to many important insights for him. It was an early part of the process but it was an important part.

For reasons of his own, though, Jefferson had been angry. He’d nursed a grudge for a long time – long after his parents’ divorce was final. He’d fed it and it had grown. As it grew, it seemed to consume him. He’d let it grow to the point that it threatened to eclipse his whole life. But that was over now. Maybe the anger was a necessary part of his growth. Either way, Jefferson had gotten to the point where he was constantly amazed with how life unfolded.

“Anyway,” Henry went on, “we were living in New York City and I took it into my head for some reason to take you to the beach. I don’t think you’d ever seen the ocean before. I didn’t bother trying to explain it. I just said that we were going someplace special and that you would enjoy it. That was enough. That was enough for you.” Henry’s voice trailed off.

“You had complete faith in me.” He was quiet for a long time.

“You used to love water. Any water, really, but especially moving water. Do you still?”

“I don’t know.” said Jefferson. “I hadn’t really thought about it.” He thought about it. Henry waited.

“… but I notice now that I don’t associate movement with water. When I think of water, there may be waves but the body of water is still. I have to remind myself that there’s movement.

“When I think of movement I picture people dancing across a dance floor or machinery moving – or their parts, anyway. Solid things. I don’t picture moving water.”

“Maybe that’s why moving water was so fascinating for you.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“You used to stare contentedly at a river or a lake. You wouldn’t budge. You could stare at it for hours. The larger the body of water was, the more fascination it seemed to hold for you. Maybe it was the promise it seemed to carry.

“You could gaze at a fountain forever. I remember pushing you through a mall in a stroller and coming across a fountain. We watched the fountain for a while. When I tried to leave, you complained. You didn’t want to leave! You were so disappointed.” He trailed off again, remembering the baby Jefferson used to be. After a moment he continued.

“So anyway, on that day we drove to Jones Beach. At least I think it was Jones Beach…

“It was late enough in the season that the beach was pretty much deserted. I remember a boardwalk. It was still fairly new back then.

“When you caught your first sight of the ocean, you stood transfixed. You were young enough that you didn’t have many words, yet, but I could feel your wonder. It seemed like you’d never guessed that there could be so much water in the world.

“You just stared at the waves and the vastness of the water. As I recall, you finally moved only because you wanted to stay with me.

“Together we crossed the parking lot and stepped onto the boardwalk. It curved to the right, out onto the beach and around the building where they sold snacks and drinks but the building was closed.

“We must have walked over a mile out along the boardwalk. You were a little guy, so that was a long way for you but you weren’t tired. You almost danced along, watching the water.

“After a while I noticed that the sand had gotten into your shoes and socks. I sat you down on the next bench that we passed with your legs pointing straight out. Even so, your ankles just cleared the edge of the bench. I took your shoes off and they were tiny in my hand. I knocked them against the bench. Then I took off your socks, turned them inside-out, and shook the sand out of the little loops and fibers. Then, after turning them back, I brushed your feet off, tops and bottoms but mostly the soles of your feet. I remember the feel of your feet in my hand.

“I even went between your little toes and into the crevice between your toes and the balls of your feet to make sure no sand remained. Then I pulled your socks and shoes back on before you hopped down.

“You smiled at me and watched me, the water completely forgotten. After that, you wanted to sit down on every bench we passed. You even got sand in your socks deliberately.” Henry smiled, remembering. He was quiet for a while. Then he said, “It was an extraordinary moment that we shared together although you don’t remember it. I never told anyone about it before…

“…it’s been a private memory. I wasn’t hiding it from anyone. It was just something that only I held…”

He sat silently and then said with a sigh, “I never thought about it that way before – as something private or just mine. I’ve only ever been aware of the care it showed. Of the amount of care that we both had for each other. I don’t know if you knew how much you empowered my life…

He caught himself, lost in the rush of emotions. All of his airways suddenly seemed too small and his tongue rolled to the back of his mouth but his mouth was dry. Nevertheless he made several swallowing motions to release the tension. When his throat relaxed enough for him to continue, Henry concluded, “…I liked it, too.” A tiny tear formed in the corner of one eye. Henry wiped it away.

They sat together for a while, each one seeing his own silent world yet each one keeping the other company. Then Henry said, “I can’t remember the walk back or the drive home but I remember walking along the boardwalk with you and you wanting to sit down on every bench we passed and give me your feet. I remember cleaning your feet.”

After a while Jefferson said, “Thanks, Dad. I never knew.”

Then he said, “Brooke is waiting for me. I said that I would meet her.”

He got up and headed for the door. He called over his shoulder, “I’ll see you next time!” Then he was gone.

Henry sat in his chair and savored the evening. At last he got up and padded through the door and down the hall. He entered the kitchen and switched on the light. The dogs were both in their crate, eagerly sitting up and vigorously wagging their tails. It was time for their walk and they knew it.

“Okay, okay, you guys. I haven’t forgotten.” Henry opened the door to the crate and they exploded out and bounded to the door. Chuckling, he followed and grabbed their leashes and the little strap-on rosin bag that they used to carry treats and bags.

Helen would be home soon. He clipped the leashes to their collars and followed them out into the gathering night. He smiled into the dark as they went on their walk together.

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© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Sand Gets In-Between Your Toes” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Driving

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by DCH Park

cockpit-220116_1280The sun shone brightly as Henry drove down the highway alone. Four lanes of busy traffic stretched to the distance before and behind him and four more lanes were on the other side. The median strip was wide and grassy. It dipped in the middle and guard rails ran on either side. Looking up, he saw that the whole “big sky” was a light blue dome that stretched from one horizon to the other.

The wind rushed past Henry’s car as it raced with others on the road. He watched as the patterns made by the speeding cars changed and danced. They were never static. They always changed, like a living thing. The whole time, some cars would enter and others would leave, no doubt to go to their various destinations, but the patterns on the highway remained. Henry pictured an ameboid blob flowing through different shapes, pulsing rhythmically as it traveled down the road.

Nearby cars zoomed along while faraway things seemed much slower. The distant mountains seemed to barely move at all. The car before him was a late model Audi – a low-slung sports sedan – that had been with him for the last several exits. He absently noted that the Audi’s tail lights were shining at him but it was bright out and they were on the highway with traffic moving well. There was no reason the Audi should have its tail lights on.

The driver looked like a young person, so it seemed unlikely that forgetfulness was a factor. He looked around at the other cars. None of them had their lights on. He double-checked his own display panel to be safe. His lights were off, too.

Then he remembered the sun. He mentally conked himself on the forehead with the heel of his hand. No doubt, the sun was shining into the Audi’s tail lights and that’s what he was seeing, he thought. He pictured the sun hovering somewhere behind the Audi and causing its tail lights to glow.

He filed that little mystery in the “solved” column and proceeded to re-submerge himself into the flow of traffic, feeling warmed by the glow of his own cleverness. Just as he was about to forget the Audi, it went under an overpass. Something about it stuck out. It didn’t seem right somehow but he couldn’t put his finger on what was bothering him.

Luckily, they were passing through one of the many small towns along the way so he didn’t have long to wait for the next overpass. This time, he was watching the Audi’s behavior closely.

He watched as its shadow disappeared into the much larger shadow of the overpass. Then, as the tail-end of the Audi went into the shadow, too, he saw it! The tail lights of the Audi continued to shine even after the car had gone into shadow. The rest of the car was dark so the glow couldn’t be from the sun shining on it!

The tail lights continued to glow for a few car lengths and didn’t go out until the Audi was almost halfway through the shadow. This behavior, as small and quiet as it seemed to be, had incredible significance. This thing had not behaved as he had expected it to. Something totally new or unexpected (or both) was going on!

He felt like a great scientist discovering a fundamental property of existence. He had studied how those scientists had noticed and developed their creative insights. He had emulated their habits, hoping to perceive a breakthrough himself, someday. He had practiced being open to what was there and observing things so that he would be ready to catch a clue from the Universe, whatever that clue might be. Even something small and easily overlooked could lead to an important insight.

He reminded himself that he could never know ahead of time when something might come up or what it might be. He continued to follow the Audi and watched as it passed into the shadow of another overpass. He confirmed that the tail lights continued to glow even after the rest of the car was shrouded in shadow. He spent a moment appreciating how pretty the bright glow of the tail lights were in the dimness of the overpass.

What was going on, he wondered. He went over everything he remembered in his mind. He knew there were certain things that were outside of his conscious awareness. Nevertheless, some things stood out. He noticed some things more readily than others. They seemed more significant. He’d noticed in the past that such hunches generally paid off so he had trained himself to pay attention to them. He had trained himself to notice patterns. It wasn’t a matter of cataloging huge numbers of separate facts. Things fit together into patterns. Those patterns defined the movements of things and how they related to one another. They could be used to predict what would happen next. It wasn’t about noticing individual facts. It was about noticing the patterns. After a while, noticing them became second nature, like walking across a room.

The patterns also made it easier to notice when something didn’t fit. When something behaved in a way that was surprising or unexpected, when it didn’t fit the pattern, it was certain that something was up. The exciting thing was that this observation about the glowing tail lights was real and consistent. The Audi’s tail lights continued to shine in the shadow so it couldn’t be from the sun shining on the car. That meant that either the theory that led to the expectation was wrong or something was misunderstood, or both. Something didn’t follow the pattern or the pattern was misunderstood somehow. Either way, something interesting was going on.

For a moment, anything was possible. Henry imagined that everything he thought he knew about shadows and sunlight was trashed in favor of a whole new pattern of thought. The highway and car disappeared and Henry found himself traveling through a stream of possibility, a river of inchoate potential, not yet formed by choice or observation.

Then the vision was gone. The two cars were just about to come out of the shadow of an overpass. Henry noted that the Audi passed out of the shadow and back into the sunlight but its tail lights didn’t shine. That lasted for a beat or two then suddenly they did shine.

This puzzled him as they continued down the road and then the Audi went under another overpass. He watched the tail lights continue to glow and then go out and then noticed that he had entered the shadow, too. A strange possibility percolated in his mind as he watched the Audi emerge from the shadow, its tail lights dark, only to glow again as he emerged back into the sunlight.

He puzzled over this for a moment then hit upon a geometry that was different from what he was expecting and easily twice as complicated but the new geometry did explain the shining tail lights and the behavior of the shadows.

He followed the examples of the great scientists whom he had studied and made a prediction to test his new understanding. He predicted from the new geometry, which angle the sun would be at. Sure enough, it was where he predicted it would be.

The sun was in front of the car. There was no way that it could have shined into the tail lights of the Audi. The sun must have shined into his own headlights, bounced forward into the Audi’s tail lights, and then back to him.

He basked for a while in his changed intuition, felt humbled by the grandness and complexity of everyday experience, and marveled that as small as he was, he was complex enough to understand and wonder at the wide Universe, all while he continued on to his destination. The Audi stayed with him until he exited the highway to get his son.

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© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Driving” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Remembrance of Times Past

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by DCH Park

yorkshire-terrier-171701_1280Charlie Girl was Fitzwilly’s pack mate. Along with their three humans, they formed a pack. It was small, but it was good. Fitzwilly was also known (at least to himself) as Doggie Chi. Those who knew him as Fitzwilly didn’t necessarily recognize him as Doggie Chi. It wasn’t impossible to know him as both but he didn’t push his Doggie Chi identity. It wasn’t that he was trying to separate them. It was just that most people saw Fitzwilly as being very different from Doggie Chi. They saw them as two separate beings, even though they weren’t.

That was often the way of assumptions, he knew, especially hidden ones or ones that aren’t seen or looked for. Things became obvious (or hidden) in support of those assumptions. Trying wasn’t necessary. Things just happened, although practice might be needed at first. Nevertheless, Fitzwilly didn’t see himself as two separate beings. A busy day of playing fetch, eating grass, and sniffing butts seemed to be in perfect alignment with the transcendence and wisdom of Doggie Chi but people tended not to see it that way.

“People are weird,” he thought to himself, not for the first time.

He laid on his cushion in the sun and watched the youngster, Charlie Girl, sniff around the fence for the hundredth time today. Sometimes she would pounce on the ball and chase after it – that he could understand – but sniffing the fence around their enclosure was beyond him.

Maybe it was because he was so much older – he was almost five and she was only two. Maybe his advanced age accounted for his different attitude. After all, he wasn’t a puppy anymore, but he had never sniffed around a fence, either. Fitzwilly suspected that more than sniffing was going on. He suspected the differences between them. They were both in the same pack but they had differences that sometimes seemed to outweigh the similarities.

For one thing, Charlie Girl was much bigger than Fitzwilly was. He didn’t weigh more than ten pounds. She had to be about thirty-five pounds or more. He was a pure bred Yorky from a breeder. She was a mutt from the animal shelter, probably a Whippet-Pit Bull mix – what one of their humans sometimes called a “Bull Whippet.”

She was definitely pretty, with the sleek lines, long legs, and deep chest of the Whippet line and the bigger head, broader face, and soulful eyes of her Pit Bull heritage. She was fast, too. She’d only met one other dog who could even keep up with her and that had been a full blood Grey Hound.

Her favorite game seemed to be to goad other dogs into chasing her around the dog run and then to take off, easily out distancing them with her speed. She really loved running. She bounced along with a goofy smile on her face and wind of her own making blowing through her ears and short hair. Sometimes she ran when no one else was around, just for the joy of running.

In his mind, Fitzwilly thought of Charley Girl as “The Puppy Wonder.” It was a bit wordy, but it captured her true essence. She wasn’t a puppy anymore but her enthusiasm was very puppy-like. It was undiminished. When something got her excited, she had the uncanny ability to share her excitement so that others got excited just by watching her.

She wasn’t jaded, either. Many of the things that had excited her as a puppy excited her as an adult. Her love of running was an example. That she was part Whippet might be part of it, but she never seemed happier than when she was running free at the park or running circuits around the house.

She was beautiful at such times. She wasn’t ugly at other times by a long stretch, but watching her enjoy the simple act of running was freeing. Just by watching her people felt like they could run, too. They felt like they could fly.

She was like that. Not for the first time, he noticed that her infectious enthusiasm was winning. People and other dogs wanted to help her because of it. They behaved as if the more they helped her, the happier they would be themselves, as if their happiness and hers were linked somehow.

Fitzwilly snapped back to the present moment. Charlie Girl wasn’t sniffing around the fence anymore. Instead, she was creeping up on the ball as if it was some unsuspecting prey. She pounced on it, trapping it between her forepaws, butt in the air, tail wagging. That tail literally whipped through the air. It was a dangerous weapon and although Charlie Girl didn’t see it as such, Fitzwilly had learned to avoid that tail the hard way.

Fitzwilly lounged in the heat of the sun, his head between his paws, ears erect. He turned them forward and back, like a wolf’s ears, to follow different sounds. His ears and his eyes showed the only movement. He appeared to be dozing but he was actually alert. He thought again about the name he’d given Charlie Girl – “The Puppy Wonder.” It seemed to fit. She was definitely a puppy. At least she was compared to him. He looked at her again. She was contentedly chewing on the ball. He remembered her energy and liveliness. She took joy in the smallest things. Everything was a wonder for her. Of course it was, he reminded himself. She still had the exuberance of a puppy. A thought came to him – was that the source of her power? Was she powerful because of her exuberance?

He thought about it. It seemed natural and right somehow. It was also ironic because most folks got the idea that in order to “grow up” it is necessary to become serious and boring but not Charley Girl. She was just as joyful as she was when she was younger. Her joy was irrepressible and it made folks smile. Was she a joy because everything she experienced was a joy? Everything was a wonder? Did pure joy lead to power?

If so, that implied that power didn’t result in happiness, rather, happiness led to power. He realized that the age-old question of whether love or fear was better, was merely another way to ask the same question. The use of fear supposed that there was no connection. If there were truly no connection, it would make sense to try to get even a tiny bit more joy out of a situation even if it meant that another suffered mightily. If things were truly separate, it would only make sense to increase personal happiness at anyone else’s expense. No one else’s suffering would matter.

But life and reality indicate otherwise. They indicate that everyone is connected. In order to inspire others, it is necessary to recognize and honor connections. It as simple as that. That’s what sharing joy can do. In fact, joy wants to be shared. It’s paradoxically made bigger when it’s given away. The Puppy Wonder makes people happy and that inspires them to help her. Helping her makes them happier.

He mulled it over. He thought about true joy. He felt into the quiet unfolding of self and how it forms a conduit through which the unknown passes into the familiar. He felt into that process of passing into the familiar. He noticed how it acts and what it touches and changes and how it is changed itself. He remembered the power of joy. He had seen it change lives. It had affected his own life and he was richer for it.

When he first met Charley Girl he had been miserable and depressed most of the time. He had been brought all the way across the country to a strange house full of strange smells and a puppy with a tail. He laid about back then, almost never ate, and projected an air of general sadness. He managed to be miserable on the trip cross country and felt isolated in this strange, new house. But all the new things made it hard to be depressed and the puppy was irrepressible.

She was easily three times his size and could squash him if he wasn’t careful. He soon learned that she certainly wasn’t careful so he had to be. She sat anywhere. And that tail! The ghost of a smile flitted across his face and then it was gone.

The Puppy Wonder felt genuine joy in everything. She was happy upon seeing another, making a new friend, or the erratic flight of a butterfly. She didn’t judge anyone. She felt joy in them. And she shared that joy, too. It wasn’t just that she was happy. Her happiness was infectious. And as it spread, it naturally increased. That was how she inspired people to help her.

One day, he noticed that she always got more praise than he did, in spite of the fact that he was smaller and cuter. Passersby would begin by cooing over them both. Sometimes they would make louder noises over him initially. This was especially true of the women and girls for some reason. But Charley Girl got praise, too. As soon as he started barking to draw more attention to himself, he was forced to the ground or his mouth was held shut.

Maybe the humans didn’t want to hear it explained to them. Maybe they objected to all the barking. But for whatever reason they reacted badly when he chastised them for praising Charley Girl. Nevertheless he didn’t stop barking. He was compelled to redress this injustice somehow. He couldn’t let it go so he kept barking but his angry protests didn’t seem to matter. They kept praising Charley Girl.

One person they walked by most mornings wore a uniform and had dog treats in her pocket. Whenever she was there, they would stop on the corner and greet her. Charlie Girl would sit quietly, watch her with those big eyes, tail wagging, and get a treat, which she would crunch and gobble down immediately. He would stand his ground and bark and bark and bark until his human forced his head down and he would never get a treat.

It seemed to go on this way forever. Each day they would stop to say, “Hi.” Charley Girl would sit quietly with her tail wagging and get a treat. He would bark at her, calling attention to himself, and get nothing.

Then, one day, he decided to try something different. He was tired of watching Charley Girl get all the praise and the treat. He sat and quietly wagged his stubby tail just like Charley Girl. It worked! He got a treat, too!

That was interesting. It didn’t change his attitude with everyone. He still barked at them, especially when he felt insecure and wanted to assert himself. But this one person with the treats didn’t react well to the barking. Instead, she seemed to respond to a silent greeting.

He decided that this person with the treats was OK but that didn’t change how he treated others. He used his excellent memory to recall that she was special whenever he saw her and treated her differently. He remembered that she was OK, a friend. The others continued to be treated as if they were threatening strangers instead of friends.

Granted, he wasn’t always castigating them for their own good. It was a big city, full of strange people, and he was a little dog. The humans towered over him. He could be forgiven for barking at them occasionally, he thought. He was just telling them to back off and respect his space. Did it matter that he was barking out of fear? Did it matter that he barked much more often than “occasionally”?

A bird flew into their yard and landed for a moment on a branch. He was bright and chipper and very formal looking. His little bird head wagged from side to side in rapid movements as he surveyed the yard. Then he flew off again. Fitzwilly didn’t bother moving from his spot. Charlie Girl never even noticed.

One time, they were walking with one of their humans along some trails in the park. No one was around, so the human took them off of their leashes. They came across a dead bird on one of the little wooden bridges that the trail went over. Charlie Girl sniffed at it and ran off. Fitzwilly took more time with the bird.

It was squashed flat and mostly dry but surely there would be some muddy moisture in it to make smells, he thought. Being a rat dog by lineage wasn’t easy. It gave him a natural tendency to fight nasty rats. That tendency didn’t go away just because there were no rats to fight. Anyone or anything strange would do. That’s why he would often bark at people – at least, that was his excuse.

That was also why he grew his hair long. Without it, he looked like a tiny Chihuahua. With it he looked bigger and fiercer. It provided good protection from imagined teeth and claws.

That aura of fierceness was also created by the way he smelled. Completely separate from the fact that rats, his ancestral enemy, often smelled pretty bad, so the way he smelled could provide camouflage, he liked smelling bad. When he smelled like soap and flowers, he didn’t smell like himself, at least not the self he wanted to be. He didn’t smell fierce. When he did smell bad, he fancied that he smelled fierce.

So he had literally jumped in excitement when he came across the dead bird. He ran up to it and rubbed his face in it, thoroughly mashing the smell into his fur. His human predictably ran up, hands waving in the air, and yelled to get him to move away from the carcass. He ran off before the human could touch him, but not before he had rubbed in a good smell.

He trotted off happily while his human grumbled something about having to wash him.

After a while, he noticed that Charley Girl was following a pattern. She would stop – sometimes it was at a tree or some other plant, sometimes at a big rock or a pile of dirt – and sniff it curiously. She would keep sniffing until their human caught up with her or something else had captured her attention. Then she would normally run off, tail wagging.

What did Charlie Girl enjoy so much, Fitzwilly wondered. He went up to a plant that she had smelled and tried it. He watched her to see what she was doing. She was at another plant, smelling it before taking off again. He sniffed at his plant. He marveled at what he smelled. It was like the whole world opened up to him. He smelled earth and leaves and the rain from a day ago or so. He could smell how long ago it had rained. He smelled the moisture. He smelled something else, too. He smelled the plant. He could smell if it piqued his curiosity or not. He could smell if he wanted to eat it or not.

He had had no idea! He marveled at how powerful and sensitive his nose was. He smelled some more. He moved his nose around the plant to get different angles. There was something else. What was it? He sniffed at it, trying to figure out what he smelled.

Then he suddenly got it. Urine! He smelled urine! Other dogs had passed this way and they had left their urine behind. They had left their whole life stories behind in their urine! He could sniff their urine and tell. He could smell what they’d eaten and how old they were and how healthy they were. He could smell if they were tired or not or if their feet hurt. He could smell if they were big or small. He could smell their attitudes – if they felt friendly or afraid or isolated. He could tell so much by the smell.

The wooded path suddenly took on a different dimension. It was as if it was suddenly deeper. It seemed to glow and sparkle with various colors, many of which he’d never seen or even imagined existed before. The path opened up before him in a wholly different way. He had so many options available to him. All he had to do was choose something and sniff.

Part of him cried for those who could never smell things this way. Part of him lamented that he’d spent so long not smelling things, that he’d spent his whole life up until then in a flat, grey, two-dimensional world, devoid of smell. But mostly he was overwhelmed by the sense of possibility. He vibrated with it.

He laid on his cushion in the sun and remembered with fondness his first discovery and early forays into the wider doggie world. He didn’t move from his cushion. The sun shining down was too warm and delicious. He remembered the simple power of taking joy in life and what it had brought him in his life and he smiled.

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© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Remembrance of Times Past” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Feeding Time

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by DCH Park

doggy-635408_1280Fitzwilly and Charley Girl came back inside with their person. It was morning time and they had just gone outside to relieve themselves. It was still dark out but the cold air hadn’t penetrated their cloaks of warmth, yet. They were still toasty in their cores. That was a benefit of being speedy. Now it was time for food!

As soon as their leashes were unsnapped, they happily scampered to the crate in the kitchen. Charley Girl was the bigger of the two and she was part Whippet, so she generally got there first. Sometimes on a turn she ran so fast that her body went one way while her paws went another and she hit the ground but that never slowed her down much. In fact, Fitzwilly wasn’t even sure she felt the hits. She always seemed to scramble to her feet right away and run off. For his part, Fitzwilly was a Yorkshire Terrier but he was plucky. He didn’t give up, not that he would over such a short distance.

Once they got there, they climbed inside, turned around, and laid down on the blankets, waiting for their person to feed them. He was maddeningly slow. Sometimes he was slower than at others though Fitzwilly wasn’t sure why. It was clear that he moved at human speed, not dog speed. He slowly walked from the door to their crate, retrieved their bowls, and filled them with food. He didn’t know why the human took so long but he wished he would hurry up.

When the food was finally sitting in front of them, they had to wait again for the command to eat! It was torture to wait. He could smell the food. Fitzwilly occasionally looked up to see what the human was doing but mostly he watched the food. He could imagine how good it would taste and how it would feel in his stomach. He only glanced up to let the person know that he was waiting. It didn’t occur to Fitzwilly that the person was waiting for him to look up.

Once he began eating, he lost himself in his frenzy. He was consumed in a symphony of teeth and tongue and swallowing. He didn’t even waste time chewing, like Charley Girl did. He simply swallowed the food whole. He felt that it was important to eat everything he could as quickly as he could so that no other dog could. Never mind that he and Charley Girl had separate bowls and separate food and there was no other dog around. Nor did he know that there were dogs who had food in their bowls all the time and ate only intermittently. All that he saw was the food right in front of him.

After he gobbled his food and licked his bowl to get any crumbs, he made it a habit to inspect Charley Girl’s bowl, too. Usually there was nothing there but occasionally she would miss something or wouldn’t eat. Then he would feast, assuming the human didn’t remove the bowl before he was done.

He forgot himself completely when he ate. He wasn’t aware of anything but his food. He didn’t remember himself at all until after he was done. Only then did he become aware enough of himself again to have any hope of becoming Doggie Chi. He didn’t bite or growl or anything like that but he wasn’t conscious of himself, either.

Lying down afterwards, digesting his meal, he speculated on the difference between his own behavior and that of Charley Girl. Her behavior was not inconsistent with the exuberance of The Puppy Wonder but his behavior was most definitely different from the enlightened awareness of Doggie Chi.

Feeling full and satisfied, he laid his head down between his fore paws and his eyelids drooped. While his body dissolved into the familiar rhythms of sleep, he pondered the difference between the way he was when he ate and the practice of being aware that led to Doggie Chi. There were definitely two different practices. One focused on being aware. The other emphasized a particular goal and suppressed everything else.

The gathering sense of relaxation continued to mount. His thoughts slowed down as he did. Why did he descend into his animal nature at such times? Why did he forget himself? Was it just a habit? Wasn’t it natural for higher forms like dogs to evolve toward something finer, more divine?

He imagined his ideal dog, with soft fur, slim, strong tail, and keen nose, towering over other dogs. He imagined himself as that ideal dog and smiled to himself as sleep overcame him.

Some time later, he resurfaced into his final burst of wakefulness. He groggily continued his train of thought. He reminded himself that base animal behavior was completely concerned with getting food, shelter, and warmth – the things of survival. But surely he had progressed beyond that stage…

…hadn’t he?

As the last remnants of conscious awareness disappeared, he was left with this final question. No one, however, could say if he knew its context any longer.

Then he was sound asleep.

###

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Feeding Time” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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The 5 Kingdoms

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by DCH Park

The 5 KingdomsThere were once 5 Kingdoms who traded with each other. They grew prosperous from the trade and all was well.

The people of the first kingdom were great foresters and farmers. They cared for the land and all the plants and animals that grew upon it. The farmers grew things in great variety but always allowed the land to lie fallow for one year out of four. The foresters cared for different plants and animals from the farmers and did it in a different way but produced delicacies that no one else could. The changes of the seasons and the rhythms of the land and the reverence they felt for the land were all in the food they produced.

The people of the second kingdom were hardy fishermen and women. They harvested all manner of wealth from the sea. They knew that their lives were intricately bound up in the sea. They even timed their comings and goings to coincide with the tides. They had parties and celebrations on the beach and gladly took any excuse for a clam bake or a crab bake or a lobster bake or just a dance party with no bake at all. High tide under a full moon was a particularly special time for them.

The people of the third kingdom were excellent miners, which was fortunate because mineral deposits in their their land were rich and varied. They had an intimate knowledge of the land and were constantly probing and imaging it to find new deposits or a new cave. They loved nothing more than to explore a new cave or digging through the earth, searching out the hidden roots of things.

The people of the fourth kingdom were masters of the fiber arts. They could weave a basket or take hemp or linen fibers and make a fine suit of clothes or delicate paper out of them. The things they made were the finest imaginable. They could make rope of any thickness or colored thread, yarn, or paper and make all sorts of things from these materials. Their costumes and decorations were beautiful and surprising. Their festivals were always bright and colorful. It was said that you hadn’t lived until you’d attended a festival in the fourth kingdom.

The people of the fifth kingdom were smiths of all types. They worked with wood and stone as well as with metals. They could make a fine needle or a complex machine. Their people also included marvelous chemists. They were able to fashion fuels and other raw materials out of things they bought or found. They refined metals from some stones and cut others into jewelry and statues. They made porcelain tableware and figurines out of earth, glass implements out of sand, and caved wood into a variety of objects both useful and decorative.

The 5 Kingdoms were very different but they shared a sense of respect and reverence for the land. It sustained them. It gave them their lives and also their livelihoods. There was no reason it couldn’t continue to do so forever as long as it was taken care of. So each generation took care of the land so they could pass it on to future generations. They knew they didn’t own the land. They knew that they were merely part of a long succession – a chain of generations – who managed the land together. They formed a symbiotic relationship with the land. They benefited from the land and the land benefited from them.

Still, the people of The 5 Kingdoms knew that the land would be nothing without the people. People were the true source of wealth. Prosperity flowed from the efforts and genius of the people. Everyone in The 5 Kingdoms owed the creation of his or her personal wealth to everyone else. They all rose and sank together and they knew it.

Thus the various peoples traded with each other and were able to get everything they couldn’t make for themselves from each other. They had everything they needed for life. In fact, they became so wealthy and life was so fulfilling together that the life expectancy of the peoples of The 5 Kingdoms increased to a phenomenal degree.

Rarely did anyone mention one of the kingdoms as a separate entity even in passing. They were legally separate kingdoms but their trade agreements had lasted for so long and their cultures and traditions had merged so much that they seemed more like regional variations of a single, vast country than separate kingdoms and although there was certainly no law against trading with anyone else, there was little incentive to do so.

Strangers were welcome in any of the kingdoms. Many times such strangers were destitute in the beginning but had come to make valuable contributions. Many of them had risen to become highly regarded and influential. Who knew if the next stranger wouldn’t create the next great thing?

So all was well in The 5 Kingdoms for many generations. Then one day a money counter appeared in the first kingdom. He was obviously poor and had traveled a great distance. No doubt, thought the people of the first kingdom, he sought the prosperity of The 5 Kingdoms. However all the money counter could see was the vast wealth in the forests and the farms of the first kingdom. He imagined they were all his or controlled by him and everyone in the kingdom worked for him but he kept his imaginings secret. He said nothing to the people of the first kingdom.

As was their custom, the people of the first kingdom put him up in one of the apartments they had set aside for indigents. He was provided food and means to wash and press his meager clothes. He was left alone to tend to his needs and get his bearings.

Soon he was hard at work in his trade, keeping track of the coming and going of money. He had a practiced way of looking at money and his suggestions invariably increased profits. The businesses of those he worked for grew even richer. He started his own company and hired employees to satisfy demand.

The people of the first kingdom didn’t know why he had failed where he came from. He was certainly wise in the ways of business. Nor did they understand why he had shown up in their kingdom alone, with no family or tokens or anything reminiscent of any ties. But they were glad that he had come. They assumed that he would talk when he was ready. At any rate, they were certain that a person’s actions would be consistent with his thinking, whether voiced or unvoiced, so they didn’t press.

In the meanwhile, they were focused on making more money. The promise of riches often produces a kind of mania. That mania was taking hold of the people of the first kingdom. It was so slow and they were so distracted by their mounting frenzy that they failed to notice what was happening to them. Instead, they set their sights on the money they imagined before them. Soon that was all that they could see.

The money counter was in high demand as excitement spread. He became very rich but that didn’t satisfy him. There were others who had more money than he had. He had to be the best. He had no family or friends to share his money with and he didn’t trust new people. He was sure they wanted nothing more than to separate him from his money so it was hard for him to make new friends.

Rather than feeling out the hard things to understand them so he could heal them and make them easy, the money counter followed his training and avoided the hard things. In a way, the money counter was a victim. He was trying to be true to his training but that didn’t remove his personal responsibility for what he did or towards other people.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t help him make friends. In fact, avoidance made it harder to make friends. However, he was unaware of all of this. Without awareness of what he was doing, he pursued the only thing left to him. He pursued money with a single-mindedness that was inhuman.

In a short time, he became the most successful money counter in the whole kingdom yet that wasn’t enough. One day, he announced to his employees that he was going on a trip. He would go to the second kingdom to begin operations there. Surely the people of the second kingdom would appreciate him and his keen insight and counting abilities just as the people of the first kingdom had.

So he set off for the second kingdom. But this time he did not travel on foot wearing threadbare clothes. This time he rode in a fabulous carriage and wore expensive, new clothes. He made arrangements for his living space and counting house ahead of time, so they were waiting for him when he arrived.

His reputation preceded him. As soon as he opened for business, he had as much business as he wanted. Soon everyone in the whole kingdom employed him. He did the same with each of the other kingdoms.

After he became well known throughout all of The 5 Kingdoms, he settled back and looked at the figures from his business. He wasn’t the richest person yet but he was gaining. His growth was faster than anyone else’s. Still he wasn’t satisfied. He didn’t feel secure.

There were people in The 5 Kingdoms, thought the money counter to himself, who were so powerful that they could have him arrested and exiled. He remembered what had happened in the country of his birth. He was determined to not let that happen to him again. He imagined that the powerful people could have him thrown into a deep, dark dungeon to rot, cut off and forgotten. Never mind that such places didn’t exist in The 5 Kingdoms. His imagination was ruled by fear.

Fear demanded that he act. Fear demanded that in addition to being the richest person in all the land, he should be the most powerful person in all the land so he wouldn’t be thrown into the dungeon of his imagination. He would have to act cunningly and slowly at first, but after events gained their own momentum, he would be able sit back and relax and watch things unfold.

He waited patiently and continued to pretend to be everyone’s faithful friend while secretly working to undermine them. He used his position as money counter to all the businesses in The 5 Kingdoms to casually say things or whisper things to certain individuals in each of the kingdoms. He made suggestions that sounded wise but always caused business owners to question the motives of anyone from any of the other kingdoms. He raised questions about their reasons for doing things.

Later, when he was somewhat bolder, he suggested that they needed to protect themselves. Who knew, he would whisper, what hidden plans there might be to steal someone’s wealth? He planted seeds of doubt and suspicion all over The 5 Kingdoms. Slowly doubt and suspicion became normal. Contracts became long and laboriously exacting. Safeguards were built into every transaction. If someone began with an attitude of trust, that person was considered a fool and people tried to take advantage of him by presenting one face while secretly honoring another.

By the time that the first price increase was charged for exporting something to another kingdom, the pressure between kingdoms was nearly unbearable. That first increase led to a firestorm of reprisals as increase followed increase. No one trusted anyone else, especially those from another kingdom. Generations of successful trading were forgotten in the frenzy of suspicion and distrust.

The only thing that anyone seemed to be aware of was his own money. Each would-be trader imagined his own little treasure increasing beyond measure and a horde of jackals waiting to steal it from him. The money counter had successfully changed people’s expectations without revealing the truth so the norm was defined by suspicion. This created an opening for the money counter.

The only person whom everyone would accept was the money counter. His company was already present in all the kingdoms and he wasn’t from any of the kingdoms. He had originally come from a foreign land, they reasoned, so they sought him out. They begged him to oversee their deals and to make sure they were fair.

Putting on a big show, he feigned reluctance but he secretly celebrated. He agreed but he said that his staff was already overburdened. He would have to hire more staff, which would require more funds. He would also need to expand his staff further as the number of trades increased. So in addition to the startup funds, he required a portion of every trade that passed between the kingdoms. The former trading partners were desperate and didn’t know what else to do. The money counter’s demands seemed reasonable, if somewhat stiff, so they gave him what he asked for.

The money counter set up his main headquarters near the location of his first company in the first kingdom but he had offices in every kingdom to oversee transactions. His various offices were lavish and extravagant but that was only fitting, so the people told themselves, for someone overseeing every transaction between any of the 5 Kingdoms.

Fewer saw his personal apartments. These were more lavish even than his offices. They rivaled even those of the various Kings of The 5 Kingdoms. Yet still, the money counter was not satisfied.

He looked about him and saw that he was the richest man in The 5 Kingdoms. No one had more money than he had. He was also extremely powerful, perhaps more powerful than the Kings themselves, since he controlled the trade between kingdoms.

Best of all, certainly most ironic, he had done it through their respect and love for him! He had managed to get them to hate and fear each other while their love for him grew! It was as if they had traded one for the other and made him rich and famous while impoverishing themselves at the same time! He licked his lips and smiled. The pretty picture he presented to the world hinted at none of the thoughts he carried within. He would use their distrust of one another to even further separate the kingdoms and boost their love of him.

He took a moment to ponder the age-old philosophical question. Was it better to be loved or feared? Which was safer, he asked himself.

He couldn’t see that he had already chosen fear. He could only see his actions. He failed to notice his own thoughts or expectations or how his choices shaped them. He failed to see that the actions he took were in turn shaped by his expectations so his actions were ultimately shaped by his choices.

He was acting in accordance with fear but he didn’t see that those actions only seemed reasonable from within a context of separation – a context that he had chosen to begin with. He was already driving people apart and thus honoring the illusion of separation. Thus it should be no surprise that the money counter decided it was better to be feared but only after he thought himself safe.

In this way, he was no different from anyone who chooses fear and separation in any form. He was basically a coward. He “reasoned” that once he had isolated everyone to the point that they had no choice but to live within the system that he created, he would be absolute ruler, imperiously doling out things that no one else could even question because he had crushed all opposition with his strength.

Once they were all in his system and had given up hope of living any other way, then he could let drop his mask and reveal his true face. He could let go of all pretenses to love and acceptance and let fear show itself.

He would be the most feared person in The 5 Kingdoms. He would be terrible and wrathful most of the time and kind and merciful when it pleased him. He would be unpredictable and that would just make people fear him more. He would be free, he told himself. It would be wonderful.

He sat there, imagining his power and freedom for a few minutes and then pulled himself out of his reverie. Perhaps, he told himself, it would be wonderful but he wasn’t there yet.

He continued to sow seeds of distrust and suspicion throughout the kingdoms while continuing to pretend to be everyone’s friend. He continued to oversee the trades that passed between kingdoms while collecting a growing percentage of each transaction. He watched while relations between the kingdoms continued to fray and tensions continued to mount.

When the fifth kingdom erected a fence all around its border and checkpoints on highways to neighboring kingdoms, the money counter was surprised and delighted. Soon all of the borders were patrolled and fortified. The money counter knew that increased threats of violence gave him a built-in excuse to charge even higher fees and he did.

As misunderstandings grew into conflicts and conflicts became fights, the checkpoints and their surroundings grew more and more desolate. The money counter quietly supported installing higher and stronger walls. He quietly encouraged each kingdom to separate itself more and more from the other kingdoms.

The people of the kingdoms were suffering. The things that they needed, which had once been plentiful and easy to find had become scarce and expensive. As trade became more restricted, fewer and fewer goods were sold. At first, people banded together and distributed the reduction in income across everyone. They all shared the burden. But instead of passing, as such troubles had always done in the past, the reductions kept mounting. Eventually, they became so severe that many people lost their livelihoods altogether.

Many necessities were beyond the means that most people had remaining. They grew desperate. They began to organize, agitate, or steal – anything to stay alive. Marshal law was imposed in the various kingdoms. Conscription followed after that and border patrols and fences came soon after that.

Conscription into the armed forces was a welcome change for most because it meant that they could at least eat and send their wages home but the royal stocks, on which most people now depended, were limited. They were vast but they would run out eventually.

In addition, royal treasuries were tapped to pay wages to the vastly increased army and to subsidize the high fees that were charged for the trades that still went through to keep things running. The 5 Kings didn’t realize it, perhaps the money counter himself didn’t realize it, but the vast stores of food and treasure were being used to enrich the money counter. The money counter was benefiting and everyone else, including the Kings, were being hurt.

But the Kings realized none of this at the time. All they were aware of was their alarmingly rapidly dwindling stores, their swollen armies (swollen with people who would soon become desperate again once their conscription ended), and the apparent inevitable war. None of them wanted to go to war but none of them could think of any alternative plan. It seemed that the walls between the kingdoms were higher and the trades that passed between them were fewer every day. The people grew more and more desperate. War seemed unavoidable.

Then, just as he was about to proclaim war, the King of the fifth kingdom heard of a little market that had just sprung up in one of his towns. Intrigued by what he heard, he went to see it.

He traveled for a day and a night and finally came to a little village on the edge of his realm. It sat near the border his kingdom shared with the first kingdom. Being honest folk, the people of the village told the King the truth about their market even though they were afraid. They were technically breaching the border between kingdoms although they hadn’t directly broken any laws. The fence and then the wall had been erected to protect the people of the fifth kingdom from the people of the first kingdom. It wasn’t thought that any laws were needed.

But people from the villages on either side of the border had interacted and traded freely with each other for generations. Many had family members who had crossed over from or gone to the other side, before the fence had been built. Apparently they had found a way to continue trade under the notice of the money counter and the border patrol.

They had constructed a trebuchet and with it, they could shoot things high over the border to the other side. The King looked at the trebuchet and admired its craftsmanship. After they’d launched the plans for the trebuchet to the other side and established that it was possible to have two-way communication and material transfer, all that remained was negotiation on what to send, how much to send, and its price. Of course since no money changed hands, prices were based on exchange. But since each side needed what the other had in abundance, exchange was easy.

Furthermore, since no money was involved, there was no need for a money counter. People on both sides benefited and this benefited their neighbors and their respective Kings. Both kingdoms benefited. The people didn’t even notice the lack of a money counter.

The King went back to his castle in a daze. It seemed that even in a situation in which all trade is strictly limited and controlled to enrich one person or a small group at the whole community’s expense, a way to trade freely will be found. Being wise and well-schooled, the King saw that this implied that love and connection are more powerful than separation and control – that openness and honesty are more powerful than secrecy and lies. Of course, the King realized, they would be. Why else would secrets be held? Why else would something pretend to be something else? He pondered this all the way back to the capital.

Once he returned, he immediately called for a conference with the other Kings. While he waited he noticed that news of that first market had spread like wildfire all across his entire kingdom. Soon, similar markets had appeared in towns along every border that his kingdom shared with another kingdom.

When the Kings were all together, he recounted his experience and what he’d learned. He wasn’t too surprised to learn that the markets had spread across all five kingdoms. They now connected The 5 Kingdoms together. There were now two exchanges. One was an official exchange, overseen by the money counter, and the other had been invented by and was managed by the people.

The significance of the markets was not lost on the Kings. They agreed to immediately open the checkpoints between their lands to allow for free trade among the people, in accordance with their original agreements. They also tasked their armies to dismantle and destroy the border fences and walls before the conscriptees were released back to their families.

Finally, they issued a joint decree, calling for the money counter to cease all operations and for him to be arrested and all of his records seized and all of his assets frozen.

It took many years for all of the money counter’s records to be found, organized, and read. It also took many years to find the money counter, himself. This was because once he realized the soldiers were coming to arrest him, he fled. Having kept his plans secret and working to separate individuals from each other just to increase profit or to feel more powerful, when he realized that he had been discovered, he fled. This does not mean that fleeing proves guilt but in the money counter’s case, since he couldn’t hide his secret any longer, he tried to hide himself.

Over the years, he tried to remain hidden while moving to escape The 5 Kingdoms and take his hidden stash of gold with him. This is what undid him in the end. Someone saw him and reported it. He was arrested and brought before a special panel of judges from each of the kingdoms and a jury composed of citizens from each of the five kingdoms.

He was found guilty and stripped of all of his money, which he coveted so highly. He was removed from The 5 Kingdoms and exiled. He was sentenced to remove himself from that place for three times as long as he had been there. At the end of his exile, he could return if he wished, provided that his activities from that moment onward were motivated out of genuine concern for the betterment of everyone and not just himself as measured against other people.

###

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The 5 Kingdoms” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 4 – A Poser

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by DCH Park

poser“Only enemies speak the truth; friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of duty.”
– Stephen King

“One of Satan’s most deceptive and powerful ways of defeating us is to get us to believe a lie.”
– Charles Stanley

A man woke up one morning to find his spouse already awake next to him. That was unusual. Usually, he was up first. It was turning cold again so the days were shorter and the sun was coming up later but after the long, hot summer, he was used to the earlier waking period. It had become a habit to move about the house, going to the bathroom, getting dressed, and making breakfast, all in the dark. He relished the cool morning hours during the summer.

This morning though, a heavy silence greeted him. Lying in bed, he could picture the look of distracted pain on his partner’s face. The tension hung over them both like a palpable thing in the dark. He could feel it in the air.

“I had a bad dream.”

He mulled this over. Two possibilities were chasing each other in his awareness. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

Silence.

“I just want to be held.”

He could remember times when he had simply held space. He’d been asked to make soothing, nonsensical sounds while being there and holding. He had said “Dere, dere,” and made comforting, noises. He did none of that now.

Instead, he reached out for a hand as they both laid there. He touched it in the dark. “The reason I hesitate is that I’m not sure how I will be taken.

“I’m happy,” he went on, “in fact, I’m eager to be there with you as you evolve and discover more of yourself. I’m ready to lend you my strength to do that, though you don’t need it. You may want it but you don’t need it.” Pause. “I’m grateful for that. For both things.

“You’ve been there for me and raised questions that have led to insights, healing, and growth for me. I’m happy to do that for you, too. But this feels like something that’s been with you for a long time. It feels like something that has come back again and again, not always with the same face.”

“Yeah,” came the reply. “It feels like it’s connected with something very old. Something that’s been in my life for a long time. It scares me.”

“That’s not a bad thing,” the man said. “In its role of protecting the wound, Ego uses anything it can. Fear indicates that you are going in the right direction. Any strong emotion means that you are going in the right direction. I remember an old lady character talking about the ‘protective ice’ that would form over ice cream. You had to break through the protective ice to get to the sweet prize inside. Emotions are like that protective ice…

“I’m happy to celebrate your discovery and healing and growth. I’m happy to be there for you and support you in getting through to the other side. But I don’t care to be a party to enabling you, if that’s what you’re asking for. I’ve become aware that we can enable our loved ones to ignore a festering wound by continuing to act normally even though…” He let it trail off into silence.

“It’s an old wheeze in some circles,” he picked up again, “but ‘As above, so below.’ If it is true in treating physical wounds and raising children then might it not be true generally? Might it not be better to suffer the pain of an operation now than greater pain and possible disablement or death later?

“Would I be enabling you or helping you by holding you? Would I be lending you my strength and being there as you discover more of yourself and heal or would I be enabling you with my strength to continue to ignore the pain of your dream?

“Remember – ‘Everyone in your dream is you.’ You dreamed it for a reason. You said it yourself. There’s something that you are carrying or some way you injured yourself a long time ago that’s coming back up now. What is it?”

Silence.

“If I have enabled you, haven’t I been part of the problem although my intention has been to be part of the solution? If I have enabled you, how has that worked? What have I helped to cover over? What is the problem?

“It can go either way.”

Silence.

“No, it can’t. I want to be held.”

###

More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 4 – A Poser” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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The Big Storm

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by DCH Park

monsoon-390944_1280Kiran woke to the sounds of rain and wind. He was still a little guy – much smaller than he would be as a full grown human – but it was obvious that the storm was a bad one. It had been raining for seven days and who could tell when it would end? Through his window he could see that the sky was dark and grey. Thick clouds hung very low and an unbroken pall hid the sun. There was rain and mud everywhere. It even obscured the roadway as water flowed over the roads. He guessed it emptied into the river. They said on the radio that the reservoir was completely filled. He eyed the hills above the town nervously.

He ate a hearty meal of crackers and peanut butter which represented the last of his food. “At least,” he thought to himself ruefully, “there’s plenty of water!” He quenched his thirst with a long, deep drink of cold water, relishing the feeling of refreshment and aliveness that sparked through him. Then he busied himself packing some clothes and rain gear, still tasting the water in his mouth and relishing the sensation of wetness.

“How ironic,” he thought.

He would have to seek out shelter at the nearby school. It was on a hill so it probably wouldn’t be flooded. The various animals and humans from the town all knew to go there in an emergency and this was shaping up to be one. He remembered how strange the sky had looked just before the storm. It had been green and clouds had slowly filled the sky, blotting out the sun. Then the rain started.

He brought himself back to the present moment and finished packing his pack. The school promised plenty of food, blankets, and cots. Surely the different creatures from the town wouldn’t eat each other. There wouldn’t be a need to hunt because there would be plenty of food. Besides, they needed each other. The storm made that abundantly clear. He doubted they would fight but he wasn’t sure. He would have to go to the school to see.

It was just as well. He had been getting a little anxious waiting for the storm to end. There had been nothing to do about the house. This way, he could get out and maybe help others. He finished with his bundle, made sure all the lights were off (even though the electricity had gone out the first day of the storm), blew out the candles, and strapping the pack on his back, headed into the storm.

It was wet and blustery but not as bad as it had been a few hours ago. Then the wind had raged and rain blew sideways. Now it was still windy but it wasn’t as windy as it had been. He could negotiate the walk to the school.

Crossing the road was another matter. The water wasn’t as swift as some rivers that he had seen but it was fast and muddy and the road beneath it was slick. He had to walk carefully so that his feet stayed under him. When he finally reached the other side, he sighed with relief and was glad that he didn’t have to cross more streets on the way up the hill. After crossing, he was on the same side of the street as the school and an unbroken sidewalk led up to the school property. The raised sidewalk was relatively clear since rain spilled into the street.

When Kiran got to the school, he was checked in and someone showed him to the cot that was assigned to him. He dropped his dripping pack and headed out to the communication center to see if he could help anyone. He quickly found a group that was headed out and attached himself to it. Apparently Lion had gone out by himself some time ago to rescue a stalled bus.

The bus had been headed for the school when it had gotten lost a few hours ago. Apparently it had gotten swamped or stuck in the mud. Lion had gone out to rescue the bus passengers, which apparently included some children, but no one had heard from him for a couple of hours. The rescue group that he joined was composed of Wolf and a few of his pack-mates and Frog. Being amphibious and a keen observer, Frog naturally led. Wolf and his pack-mates were content to follow Frog. Kiran was, too.

Frog had noticed the direction Lion had headed off in, so he knew which way to start in but moved slower and slower the farther they moved into the storm. It wasn’t that the storm itself was fighting them. In fact, it was gentler than it had been when Lion had gone out. What slowed him down was that following a trail through the storm was hard. It would have been impossible to make any progress at all if they didn’t know the general area that the bus was going through.

None of the others complained. Nevertheless, after a particularly long stop, Frog turned to the others and admitted that he didn’t know which way to proceed. Wolf said, “Don’t worry. We’ll take it from here. With all this rain, smells are pretty faint, that is, the ones that haven’t been washed away completely, and you have to get your snout really close to anything to pick up a scent but we have eyes and there are a few of us. We’ll find him and the passengers, including the little ones.”

With that the wolves spread out, being careful to keep each other in sight while they searched for any clue. There weren’t many wolves in the group but they separated to increase their search area as much as possible. Without a further word they swept first left and then swung right, covering the entire field.

Finally they all came back to the porch they were using to get out of the worst of the falling rain (though it did nothing for the wind or splashes) and Wolf said, “We don’t know where he is. We’ve looked everywhere.”

Kiran said, “We can’t give up on him! He wouldn’t give up on us!”

Frog replied, “No one is suggesting that we should but what else can we do?”

Kiran said, “I don’t know.”

They all sat, cold, wet, and miserable, staring at the rain in silence. After a while Kiran said, “Let’s spread out and listen.”

Wolf said, “We listened, too, of course. We heard nothing. Besides, the roar of the rain and the wind and the thunder makes it hard to hear anything.”

Kiran said, “Is there anything else you can think of? Anything else to do?”

“I can’t think of anything.”

So they formed a circle around the porch and spread out. As each one sat down in the rain, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the sounds that came to him.

They sat that way for a long time, listening to the sounds and rhythms of the rain and the wind. They got soaked through and Kiran gave up all hope of keeping even his underwear dry. They accepted this in stoic silence. They sat and listened some more.

When they were shivering and so chilled that hypothermia was looming, one of Wolf’s pack-mates raised his paw to beckon them over. They silently gathered around him and he said, “Do you hear that? It’s faint but I can just make it out.”

Kiran listened. He could hear nothing but the other wolves could. Wolf said, “Good job, brother!” He loped off in the direction of the hills. The others followed, happy to be moving because of the measure of warmth it promised.

As they followed the sound, it grew louder. Eventually even Kiran could hear it. It was definitely Lion roaring to be heard.

They eventually found a deep ravine but could see no bus. The roaring was definitely coming from the ravine. Kiran looked at it. He could see signs of a recent mudslide, which wasn’t too surprising given all the rain. He said, “It looks like the bus fell or was washed into the ravine and then was buried in mud.”

Frog said, “How do we get to them?”

Wolf said, “We dig them out!”

So they started calling for Lion. Once he had indicated the best place for them to climb out, they started to dig through the mud. Luckily it was relatively soft and a lot of the water had drained out of it so out was fairly solid.

Still, it was hard and dirty work. When they reached the window and had pulled the youngsters and other passengers and Lion to relative safety, they felt like celebrating. They did a quick headcount and after verifying that everyone was present, they headed back to the school. When they got there, everyone was dried off, given a blanket, and hot soup to eat. They could feel the warmth spreading through then as they ate.

Soon they felt much warmer and the children felt gratitude for the efforts of their rescuers and the rescuers felt grateful that they could help everyone feel more secure. It was the best time ever even though the children couldn’t hear a thing. They were nearly deaf from all the roaring.

###

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Big Storm” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Dad’s Watch

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by DCH Park

Montauk Point Lighthouse taken in the early morning hours of 12/10/2005

by Wolfgang Wander (GFDL 1.2)

My dad died ten years ago. I still have his watch. It’s a heavy thing, gleaming and golden, with a raised square on the crystal over the date. It sits, quiet and weighty. A silent communion with ghosts.

I’m sure it still works, though I’ve never tried it. Never wanted to. I remember seeing him adjust it on his wrist years before he was injured by the strokes, before his long slide into shadow.

As he told it, on the morning of his first stroke, he woke up feeling odd. He wanted to go to the doctor but my mother objected. She told him to take some aspirin or a nap. When the next morning came and he was no better, they did go to the doctor but by that time, the damage was done.

Years later, long after they had both passed away, I told that story to my brother. To my surprise, he had heard the same story, but in his version our mother wanted to go to the doctor and our father had objected. I assume that he had gotten his story from our mother. Two versions of the same story but with the roles reversed. Since they were both long gone, there was no way to tell which one had been telling the truth. Maybe it didn’t matter.

In the final analysis, we judge by the feeling we have. Whether feeling leads to belief or belief leads to feeling is immaterial if it ends there. However, it rarely, if ever, does. Beliefs can be adopted from the people around us regardless of how we feel. Which path we follow has effects that continue to ripple out from the initial decision, like a stone thrown into a calm lake.

After his first stroke, dad began to give his life up a little bit at a time. He shuffled about with a cane at first. He laughed as I teased him to keep him working and walking. My mother and I would take him out for lunch or to be among people or just to get some air and sunshine, even though it took thirty minutes or more to get him dressed and out the door. I didn’t notice at first how trying the whole process was for him but it grew minutely more arduous over time. Eventually, he gave it up altogether.

He stopped wearing his watch after that first stroke. It was heavy and he didn’t have a reason to know the time. He always intended to put it back on after he got better but he never did. Instead, his hand withered into a claw. His whole left side became a remnant. A golden watch dial had little meaning, no matter how much it gleamed. Time was marked instead by his creeping descent into disability.

I am left to remember two fathers. I know they are both the same man, but they seem like different people. One is resigned to dying. The other is busy living. One is letting go of life by degrees and the other is remarkably robust. They hardly seem like the same man. Yet at the end of his slow fade, he held onto the final shreds of life with the same fierce tenacity that marked the living man.

I remember one time, when I was a young teenager, I asked him directly why he stayed with my mother. They seemed like a mismatched pair. He was calm and nurturing, if a bit exacting and proper. She seemed harsh and demanding. She literally yelled at him for days whenever they argued or something didn’t go as she’d expected it to. When she yelled, he would sit silently, close his eyes, and listen to it all, even if it went on for days.

He responded to my question without hesitation, as if he’d been thinking about it every day with no one to talk with. He said that she had an ability to do amazing things. Her energy and joy were incredible. He loved that about her. In fact, he had fallen in love with her because of it. This was a side of her that I had rarely seen. His voice shook with the intensity of his feeling.

But he also said that she was afraid. She couldn’t always reveal that energy and joy because of her fear and she most feared those closest to her. He hoped that one day she would feel comfortable and safe enough with him to share her energy and joy again, so they could both revel in it and dance together again. He cried. We held each other for a long time afterward.

Listening to him, I flashed on a memory from years before. I couldn’t have been more than four or five years old. Both of my parents were doctors and we were living on the grounds of a sprawling hospital complex in a separate building for the doctors’ families. My parents had to drive a couple of miles to get to work.

One day, it snowed so hard that the hospital shut down early. My parents were stranded at work. They had to walk home. I remember eagerly watching for them through the window and how happy I was to see them tramping through the snow. They were walking with a neighbor of ours, apparently enjoying themselves. They were talking and laughing. My mother seemed animated.

For me, that helped to explain a lot. It explained the infinite patience he showed her and the countless moments he spent with her, listening to her rant. I don’t know what passed between them in their private moments, but in the end, he literally gave her power over his life. He gave her what she asked for.

When his time came, the doctor called from the hospital saying that we should get there immediately. I don’t think he realized that we were a continent away. I notified my brother and we got the next flight to New York. I hadn’t even known that dad was in the hospital. It happened that quickly. We had left him in a nursing home to get better so we could move him to the west coast to be with us. When we left, he was getting stronger, or so we thought.

We had barely gotten back from our initial trip when we got the call to return. We flew over night to get there and drove straight to the hospital from the airport. He looked shrunken and alone in the sterile room. Everything seemed unnaturally white and bright. He was silent except for his breathing. On top of the bedclothes, his hand was warm but stiff.

He had acute kidney failure. The nurse in the home had said that he’d stopped eating and drinking. “Come on, Dr. Lee,” she had said. “You’re a doctor. You know what’ll happen if you don’t drink.”

He’d looked at her and nodded.

He’d stopped trying to live. He had chosen to die. He had shared the last fifty years of his life with our mother. After she was gone, he had nothing to do, or so he thought. So he went about dying.

He had a clause in his living will against intravenous feeding, so none was provided. By the time we arrived at the hospital he was unconscious. We set up a vigil. We took turns alternating between sitting with him and trying to catch some sleep in the second bed. He was alone in a semi-private room so there was no one to distract us.

When my turn came, I was exhausted and laid down but sleep was impossible in that room, even after the flight. I don’t think either of us found the room very hospitable. After the first night we gave up trying to sleep.

I had one sided conversations or silently remembered with him for hours. Sometimes I sang to him. I remembered the way he used to sing Korean love songs when we were out driving. I was no more than ten or eleven years old. I had no idea what the words meant but they sounded sad. It made him feel happy to be able to share them. Afterwards, I always felt closer to him, like we shared something that only we knew.

Sometimes we would talk or argue on those drives but most of the time he sang or we listened to financial news radio or sat in silence. At such times, he would often raise his hand and slap me on the knee, once, twice, three times. It stung. He always had a big smile on his face. It was his way of saying, “Thank you for being here with me.”

I remembered those songs and knee slaps as I sat with him in the hospital. I said, “Thanks, dad. I know you’re tired. Thanks for everything. You can go now. It’s alright.”

He visibly relaxed. The talking and singing helped. He was comforted by our presence. But he didn’t die. After thirty-six hours at his bedside we were exhausted. We decided to go to their house to get a few hours of rest. The nurses promised to call us immediately if anything happened.

The drive to their house was no more than thirty minutes long. As we were pulling into the driveway, we got the call. He had passed. My brother hung up the phone.

“I guess he wanted to be alone,” I said.

“Yeah. It happens that way sometimes.”

“It’s funny. We come all this way and go through all this so he wouldn’t be alone and in the end, he waits for us to leave.”

“Some people want privacy.”

“Hm. I don’t feel sleepy now. I think I’m going to go the watch the sun rise over the water. Do you want to come?”

“No. I’m exhausted. I just want to sleep.”

“OK.” I restarted the engine and he got out. “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

I drove with the windows down and the heat up as the winter wind rushed past. Without thinking about it too much, I found myself at the easternmost parking lot of the little island that protected the big island from the ocean. The small island was little more than a large sand bar but it held a gorgeous beach. Surprisingly, the parking lot wasn’t deserted, though the inhabitants of the few cars were not in evidence.

A lighthouse was set back from the water. A sandy path snaked through the tall grass, connecting the lighthouse with the beach. Small patches of snow were scattered about on the leeward sides of dunes. A few intrepid gulls wheeled about in the rising sun, searching for scraps.

The ocean was choppy. I had never come to the beach with my dad in winter before, but he loved the water. He’d been a champion swimmer in high school. I remembered watching him swim at the beach. He’d go out in a straight line for about a mile. Then he’d turn and swim as far parallel to shore before turning again to swim back into shore. He’d walk the distance back to us from where he’d landed. A huge square. He used to make the lifeguards nervous.

I laughed at that, remembering the man. He didn’t solve problems, he dissected them. We would often spar with each other late into the night. It didn’t really matter what the debate was about. We debated on any topic that came up. We even argued about debate.

It was such an odd way to have quality father-son time. I challenged him on it. He explained his belief in Hegelian dialectics. He said that each side had a sacred duty to argue as forcefully as possible. If he was so forceful that he happened to steamroll over an opponent, that wasn’t his problem. It was his duty. It was his opponent’s duty to be even more forceful if he could be.

Arguing as forcefully as he could was his way of honoring his opponent. Arguing with him was like standing up in gale force winds. He debated with religious intensity. And he was always debating. He loved debate. But that meant that he also loved his opponent. To him, it was obvious that debate and love were bound up together. He loved fiercely. He debated fiercely, too.

He loved ballroom dance. He would escort my mom to the dance floor and together they would amaze everyone. They moved with a lightness and flow that carried them around the floor effortlessly. It wasn’t just that they moved so well, it was that they enjoyed it so much. I never saw her look happier than when they danced. I never saw him look more elegant and poised. It was as if they became magical incarnations of dance itself. But, of course, that all ended.

As his horizons shrank to the size of his bed, we expected each Christmas would be his last. Yet every year, he would go on to see another. He survived over eleven years that way. In the end, he survived my mom, which surprised us all at the time but perhaps it shouldn’t have. She took care of him but in a way, he was also supporting her. They both took ill one January with pneumonia. He survived and even put on weight. She did not. She never woke up. He accepted the news of her death in silence. He died less than two weeks after she did.

The wind had penetrated my coat and left me thoroughly chilled. I left the crashing waves behind and hurried back to the car. I looked at the sand and the hardy, salt-loving plants growing beside the wooden planks that defined the path. Looking up, I saw that the sun had risen a fair distance into the sky. It wasn’t red any longer. The stony lighthouse overlooking the parking lot stood, resolute and apparently unchanged.

I suddenly realized that being the older brother, I was now the “patriarch” of the family. It was a strange and unnatural feeling. It felt like a set of too-baggy clothes.
As I played with this, I climbed back into the car, turned the heat on high, and headed back to the house, the windows closed this time. I wanted to get some sleep before I turned to the tasks ahead.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Dad’s Watch” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Charley Girl Acts Smart

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by DCH Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Picture by Chelsea Nesvig

He pulled the container of eggs out of the refrigerator. It had been a little over a week since he’d hard-boiled and peeled them but he figured they would still be good. He didn’t expect that Thanksgiving would adversely affect the eggs. He thought they would still be there sitting in the refrigerator after they were done eating turkey. He was wrong.

He opened the container to find slightly discolored eggs. A reddish tinge seemed to be spreading on them. He guessed that it was some sort of bacterium. There was a whitish, watery liquid on the bottom of the container, too, and he noticed an odor of ripe decay.

That didn’t stop Charley Girl, though. If anything, the odor of over-ripe eggs made her more frenzied. She furiously wagged her tail and danced about. All of her attention was focused on the eggs. When she wasn’t dancing, she sat expectantly, sniffing the air. She tried to be good and sit still but she was too excited. A whine occasionally escaped her lips as if to remind him that she was there – as if he could forget her.

He remembered that one theory held that the first dogs ate garbage. The theory suggested that that was how the barrier between humans and dogs was first breached. But however it had been first breached, it had been. Since then both dogs and humans had made progress. They were fed things that were not rotten now but dogs in general seemed to sniff out garbage and were known for putting their noses in unpleasant things, although to be fair, people sometimes ate pretty rotten things, too. He remembered a description of cheese that characterized the dairy product as rotten milk. And wasn’t there a bacterium that was used in cheese-making that was responsible for body odor? And so-called “dry aged beef” was really rotten meat.

At any rate, on more than one walk Charley Girl had apparently reveled in smelling where garbage bags had been and even eating things from off the street or that had been found in the woods and she definitely got her share of fresh dog food. He could only imagine what a truly hungry dog would eat.

He let that thought recede back into the mists it emerged from. In the present moment Charley Girl was very excited over the eggs. There were three eggs in the container. He looked around. Fitzwilly was nowhere to be seen. He was probably in another part of the house doing doggie things.

He decided to give the eggs to the dogs if the bacteria would wash off. They were slippery but as he rubbed the first one under the water, the redness came off. He smelled the egg. He broke it open and smelled the inside. He didn’t want to eat it but it seemed to be okay. The bacteria didn’t seem to have penetrated into the egg. They seemed to be confined to the layer he’d washed away.

As he ran the water and washed the rest of the eggs, Charley Girl got even more excited. Fitzwilly must have heard the commotion because he came running.

Charley Girl snatched the first egg out of his hand and ran into the nearby dog crate just as Fitzwilly came down the stairs. There, she consumed the egg greedily while Fitzwilly’s attention was focused on the remaining eggs.

There were two eggs left. He gave one to Fitzwilly, and called Charley Girl. He hadn’t quite decided what to do. He had some vague intention of splitting the remainder somehow but he wasn’t sure how. She outweighed the smaller dog by factor of over 2 but he had nothing to measure the egg with.

He needn’t have bothered. Charley Girl stayed in the crate, eating her egg and sniffing pieces of it out of the bedding. He turned back to the smaller dog. He was attacking the egg with comedic gusto. The egg was almost as big as his head. It was certainly bigger than his mouth. But that didn’t stop him or even slow him down. He bit it in two, revealing the yolk, and proceeded to eat the white half. He saved the yolk for last. Was he “saving the best for last” or eating the part he liked most first? Fitzwilly gave no clue but he stripped the egg white from around the yolk, leaving the naked yolk on the floor along with scraps of white. He ate the yolk in one massive bite and looked up at him licking his lips. There appeared to be a smile on his face.

He called again and Charley Girl still refused to come so he gave Fitzwilly the third egg. He ate it greedily and quickly. By the time that Charley Girl came out of the crate, there were only scraps of egg white left. Fitzwilly licked them up off the floor while Charley Girl was sniffing around, getting oriented. No doubt, she could smell the eggs but she wasn’t sure where the smell came from. Fitzwilly finished “cleaning up.” Charley Girl sniffed the air then went over to where Fitzwilly sat and smelled the smaller dog’s face. Fitzwilly smelled hers.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Human Nature

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by DCH Park

Sun Moon fullOne day, as the Sun was passing through the sky, gazing at the entirety of the Earth, it suddenly occurred to him that although he saw many things in his brilliant gaze, he didn’t see everything. He saw the stones and the soil of the earth and its rivers, lakes, and seas. He saw the mountains and the valleys, the snow and the ice and the clouds but he didn’t see very far beyond the surfaces of things.

He pondered this for a long time and it seemed to be true so he took his questions to the Moon. She represented the cool, dark parts of existence just as he represented the fire and light. She was nurturing, bubbly, and active, though much of that activity was hidden. He was calm, still, and clear.

She healed through her connections. His gaze was penetrating. Healing was present in his gaze but almost as an afterthought – a facet or unintended side effect of clarity of perception. For her, healing was a central focus.

In the Sun’s view, there was no need to go anywhere or do anything because you already were everything. You just had to find yourself. – At least that’s the way that he had always looked at things. Perhaps there was another way. Perhaps there was another whole half of the Universe that he knew nothing about. That’s why he sought out the Moon.

When he found her, he said, “I penetrate everything that I see. I gaze brightly and light up the whole sky when my eye is open. Yet I don’t see everything.”

The Moon said, “That is true. There are things beneath the earth or under the ocean or ice that you cannot see. There are things beneath the surface that you cannot see. There may be things in the hearts of things that no one can see – invisible things that cannot be seen but that nonetheless have real and important effects.”

Ever one to cut to the heart of things, the Sun said, “If they are invisible how can I see them?”

“Perhaps ‘seeing’ is the wrong way to think about it. You cannot see what is invisible but you may know something is there and how it behaves through its effects, even if you can’t see it. You can see the effects even if you can’t see the thing directly.

“You know a rock is just beneath the surface of a river even if you can’t see it by the ripples it creates.”

The Sun thought about this. He looked at the Universe all around him in a new way. Then he said, “So I can know what is there even in the darkness, even when I can’t see? I can know it by its effects?”

“Yes. Connections are there, even in the cool darkness, though they are invisible to the eye. They are always present, even in the daylight.”

“Hm,” replied the Sun. “Let us create life together so that we may witness the cycle of birth and death so that we may learn. What ripples will life leave behind as it passes through the Universe?”

Then he concluded, “I look forward to understanding you better. We may each understand the other better because of this.”

The Moon nodded her agreement.

So it was done. And the animals and plants filled the earth and for a time the Sun was very busy with all of the life. He was fascinated with all the dramas that played out, though he never intervened. He just watched.

The Moon was happy, too. She was delighted with all of the creatures and plants. It was as if the various forms of life completed her feminine aspect somehow.

Yet ultimately it wasn’t enough. They sought each other out again. The Sun was pleased that the Moon seemed to be so happy. He hadn’t expected such a palpable change. He said, “Life seems to agree with you.”

The Moon said, “Have you seen the fish? Of course you have, at least sometimes. There are so many kinds! And the different flowers! And the bees! The mammals! Not all of them but many of them have such soft fur!

“And the web of connections!” She went on, “It got so much richer when we added living things! It’s amazing!”

He felt it, too. The web of connections was much richer and more complex than it had been but it still didn’t open things up as much as he’d like. Or maybe it was that it wasn’t quite opening things up the way he’d wanted. Or maybe what they’d done so far wasn’t enough – maybe they could experience more by going deeper…

He said, “I sense that something more is possible. I’m not sure what. Maybe something more self-aware or something more aware of connections to the rest of the web or something more aware of the Universe.” He paused, deeply submersed in the feelings and images that came to him.

Then he said, “Maybe something that can better articulate what’s going on inside so the invisible things can be made plain. Maybe all of those things. Maybe none of them. Maybe something else.

“What do you think?”

The Moon pondered this in silence. Then she said, “I hadn’t thought about it that way. Actually,” she smiled, “I hadn’t thought about it much at all. I was having so much fun with everything else but now that I think about it, I see that you’re not wrong. What do you want to do?”

“Let’s go one step further. Let’s create Man. Let us create a child together so that he may live through the cycle of birth to death and let us learn through him. He will be a part of each of us so he will know the penetrating light as well as the connections in coolness and darkness. He will know both and will be able to share what he knows.

“We may experience life and the getting of wisdom and its benefits through him.”

“Hm,” the Moon said. “Not a bad idea. Let’s do it.”

So the Sun and the Moon, representing the masculine and feminine aspects of the Universe, worked together to create Man. He was a part of each, so he reflected both feminine and masculine aspects. In fact, he combined these different aspects in surprising ways. He was a part of the Universe and reflected its masculine and feminine elements but he was also a separate being. He was a part of the whole and whole in himself and he knew it.

He could perceive himself more clearly than any other living thing and thus more clearly perceive and act upon the divinity within himself. He was no more divine than any other part of the Universe but he could know he was divine and thus he could create his own fate. Other living things were hamstrung by their inability to perceive themselves. Thus they were trapped in their own fates and didn’t even know they were trapped.

It was possible for Man to free himself but he wasn’t created free. He wasn’t created imprisoned, either. He could choose his fate but if he didn’t choose for himself, a fate would be chosen for him and he wouldn’t be free even if he considered himself free. Chains don’t disappear simply because you ignore them. In the same way, a Man who doesn’t choose for himself isn’t free, no matter how much he insists that he is.

On the other hand, the mere act of making a choice proves nothing. Many a stage magician and con artist have thrived by getting people to choose the way they wanted them to without letting them know their choices were planned in advance. It is necessary to perceive what is constraining you in order to free yourself. In order to perceive things clearly, Man has to practice perceiving.

This is the nature of the essential struggle that every person must go through. Each person must choose for him or her self what to accept as true and what to live by. This is not a reflection that there is no truth, on the contrary. However the only place to find truth is within. Ironically, the only way to find the truth of the Universe is to become familiar with the invisible things. This is the opportunity presented to Man.

Thus, the Sun and the Moon, and the whole of existence are able to live and experience through Man. The connections that Man has with the rest of the Universe also mean that the Universe is connected to Man. Indeed, Man is free to find and honor the divine spark within himself but he is also completely himself. It is as if the more he surrenders to the divine, the more himself he is.

Alternatively, the more he resists the divine he finds within himself, the more he insists on being or doing a certain thing because “he” has decided he wants to, the more he loses himself. It is a paradox for sure.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Human Nature” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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