Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Riding my Horse, Again

My mare picks her way carefully across the slope. She's irritated at me for bringing her into this pathless country, and also irritated at me for making her cross here, rather than following the ridgetop; but my job is to see without being seen, and I have no intention of riding along the skyline. She has too much professional pride, I know, to let her irritation cloud her judgement. She keeps a sensible pace, stepping daintily through the scrub and among the rocks.

Not wearing armor today. Just a sword I trust, in its old leather scabbard. I'm a scout today, not a fighter. I can look down the long slopes to bright water. Open rough country. Is it Iceland? Norway? Further east, in the Baltic?

Questions such as these make the transition to waking. In my waking life I don't know how to ride a horse -- I've ridden only once or twice. I don't wear a sword. I don't scout or fight. And I've never been to any of those places.

But I wake up this way several times a month. Is it always the same dream? Or do I wake out of other dreams, groping for the memory of this one? I don't know. But the sway in the saddle, the dust on my lips, the skill of horse and rider, are palpable to me. I don't know what to make of it.

Except this: I'm responsible for the safety of other people. And it feels absolutely right that I should be so. A job for which I'm suited by birth, temperament, training and skill.

And so to the waking world, leaves tumbling against the skylight. A world in which very little of any of my work seems to suit me. And in which such responsibility as I feel for others is mostly misplaced. A friend was in emotional & spiritual difficulty recently and I could do nothing to help. Didn't even learn about it till the next day. And that day was wretched then, because I wanted so much to help and there was so much nothing for me to do.

I wanted to render the comfort a lover sometimes renders. To hold her, soothe her, read silly comforting books to her. And that was as impossible as the sky is wide, for reasons ranging from practical (so who has that kind of time?) to relational ("bye, Martha, I'm off to spend the night reading to someone else") to personal (would this even look like help to her? Could she, would she, should she take it as such?)

So I suffered. And suffering like that only shows up driving in a car of attachment or aversion, I know that. What is this one? What's it made of?

Oh, it's made of lots of things. Believing, in the first place, that her unhappiness was there and my happiness was here and I might somehow give her a piece of my happiness. & I didn't just want her to be happy, I wanted her to be happy because of me. I thought about that, as my thoughts wound about looking for some way to make her happy. I was looking for ways to make her happy that, just incidentally, would have my name written all over them in big letters. It was an interesting exercise to try to think: what could I do that didn't have my name on it? What possibilities might be there? The unfamiliarity of the exercise was humiliating.

I have cherished the idea that knowing me would be somehow transformative. I carry that piece of attachment clutched very tight in my hot little hand. Anyone who panders to that fantasy has instant access to me. I can be remarkably slow to notice that if knowing me is tranformative, then surely... the person knowing me ought to transform at some point? To release that clutch... well, I'm working on it. But don't hold your breath.

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