Thursday, December 18, 2008

Borrowed Time

Snowing hard, after a night of rain. The ground sucks up the snow, silently breathes it in.

You are standing in the sky, wrote Diane Ackerman. When we say that our distant ancestors crawled out onto the land, we forget to add that they really moved from one ocean to another, from the upper fathoms of water to the deepest fathoms of air.

Light seeking light doth light of light beguile, says Berowne. Which is as close a summary of the uneasy Buddhist account of the Fall as I can think of.

I have your bio in hand, and I am more perplexed than ever. But really it is only the old mystery over again. "Why are we conscious at all?" asked Martha last night, back from a day with her aged parents, whose health is dwindling. "and why do we stop being conscious? It seems like it ought to be one or the other, not both." All this light and complexity ought to come from somewhere more mysterious than the industrial north of England. And the snow shouldn't just vanish into the ground.

All night I walked in the dingy linoleum tunnels under the hospital, looking for you. Little withered things with gray skin labored in dim cafeterias along the way. Making body parts, you'd said. When I finally found my way up into the upper levels, and located you, you were asleep in a chair. I covered you with my coat. Took off your shoes and socks, and warmed your icy feet in my lap. Then I tucked one under my shirt, between my left arm and my heart, and rubbed the other with hot cinnamon oil, which had a reddish tinge under the florescent light. Om mani padme hum, I murmured under my breath, over and over. It was so cold I could see my breath. It was a long time before your feet began to warm. But when they did your whole body suddenly flushed, the light came back into it, and your sleep changed. Your skin radiated heat. I fell asleep then too, propped against the wall, your feet warming my ribs and thighs.

Sometimes one of us comes to the fountain, and the other isn't there. We go and look at the cold dark river, and watch the water move into the uncertain North.

Just who is this lender, from whom we borrow time? He never lays out his terms. It's beginning to make me nervous.

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