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Turtle pond with high grass and an egret.

 

Another Way

by Ken Sanes

What I want to say to you is that
I saw the way you laughed at that boy.
Was he eleven, maybe twelve? 
You could see he wanted to pet the dogs,
and they wanted to be petted
with their usual shaggy enthusiasm.
But you thought he lost interest
before he started to actually pet them
because of his short attention span.
You didnít notice the way his hand
reached out, then pulled back nervously.
So you made a remark, and everyone
laughed as he was walking away.
Although this also went unnoticed,
the boy then headed for the tall grass
by the lake and resumed picking up
empty soda bottles and cigarette cartons,
putting them in a plastic trash bag,
which, I think, is a way he has
of making himself a part of things.
In any case, now that Iíve had a chance
to observe your role in this incident,
thereís something I want to say to you,
which is that I see you are also trapped
in a constricted version of yourself,
and at a time relatively late in life.
But it doesnít have to be that way.
The lake doesnít have to be littered
with wrappers and empty containers,
and you donít have to be laughing
without enjoyment, laughing to hate,
and trying to come out on top
by targeting the people around you.
There is another way for you to be.
I discovered it for myself years ago
and Iíd like to describe it to you.
It is way of relating to the world
that only begins to reveal itself
when your fears are fading away
and your mind is finally freed up
from the shrill voices of accusation,
defense and counter-accusation.
Typically, this is also the time
when you stop trying to spy on the world
from behind the wall of yourself
and realize the wall was never there.
Thatís when you notice the water
dancing on one side and another
as the creek rushes over the rocks,
and you see the lakeís textured surface
as it is set in motion by the breeze.
It is when you see the dragonflies
flitting around the plants by the lake,
and the boy is scooping up litter,
even dipping his hand in the water
to get at the floating soda bottles
from his place in the tall grass,
while a small turtle dives from a rock,
disappearing into the murky water.
This is the other way. Its virtue
is that it makes you more open
to the Zen of things just happening
and the hum of nature being quiet,
just as it makes you more sensitive
to the richness and poignancy of life.
I point it out as an alternative
to the battle of over-guarded selves
that takes up so much of your time.
Of course, that still doesnít explain
why I decided to rebuild my own wall
after it was almost completely gone.
Maybe I was trying to protect myself
from the burden of all that feeling
or from the fear of nothing at all.
But at least I know how to create
this same kind of experience again
since it is something Iíve done before.
I can tell you that part of the trick
is letting the wall come down.
The other part is not building it back up
after it has fallen.

 


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