Before He Knows it

Words can evoke comforting feelings even if we don’t have a clear sense of what they mean. They can evoke the possibility of a hidden kingdom, through an archway bedecked with garlands. We just need to walk down the road aways and we’ll be there.

Some words are like jewels filling a treasure chest: awareness and attention, thoughts and feelings, perceptions and sensations; going a bit deeper, there’s understanding, hope and dreams, aspirations, faith and courage.

Let’s not forget: appreciation, caring, love and remembrance; nor goodness and openness, adventure and community . . .

But perhaps I am mistaken when I imagine that there is an entrance into this realm of inner peace and fulfillment, which I need to find so that I can step across its threshold.

Perhaps instead, there is a dynamic process already going on wherever I already am. And I, like everyone else, just have to hop on for the ride–like a wave on whose rising energy a dolphin slides with ease.

Perhaps it is my way of looking that evokes deliberations and decisions, the mounting of an expedition with careful preparations in search of the new and unprecedented.

What if the process of transformation can simply appear at any moment:

He doesn’t remember how he got here, nor even what kind of person he is, with what lineage, preparation, or guiding intentions. He looks around and sees that he is in a situation. He is sitting in a canoe, his paddle racked across the gunnels, enjoying the shoreline floating by without his having to expend any effort. He feels it is unusual that he is enjoying the birds calling to one another from the passing shoreline and as they fly overhead above the flowing stream. Part of him is ready to close his eyes, feel the sun on his face, and to just appreciate this relaxed comfort as the current carries him along.

Then a different perception dips into his awareness. He notices that the current is actually quite strong, perhaps more than he had at first noticed. And what is that sound? It reminds him of the crashing of waves on a rocky coast, but without the rising and falling tempo. There’s some commotion ahead, and it’s drawing closer.

Too late, he grasps his paddle off the gunnels and tries to resist the accelerating passage of bushes and rocks flying past him on the shoreline. He tries to steer the canoe toward the edge of the stream so that he can grab hold of an overhanging branch—leaving the canoe to its own fate–but the accelerating momentum of the current holds the bow of his canoe in its firm grip.

Something in him shifts. In place of a familiar fear of whatever awaits—fear of a future that he has learned to treat as already set in place long before he becomes aware that he is heading towards it—a feeling settles around him. It reminds him of a piece of music, in which a stirring melody breaks free from earlier distractions and meanderings, finally bursting forth without further equivocation, like the sun breaking through clouds.

As the bow of his canoe hovers over open space for a brief moment, before it then tilts straight down into the thick curtain of falling water, he notices that the canoe in which he is encased is not made of fiberglass or machine-planed strips of pine. It is woven from layers of birch bark. And his legs and feet are clad in deer skin. He is mildly surprised that he has only just noticed these things; now that he is about to come up short against the surface of a river pooled beneath him; now that these may be his final moments . . .

Unless, unless . . . he wakes up somewhere, somewhen. Perhaps the woven bark and axe-hewn ribs of wood will not snap, but will accordion as they enter the water below; perhaps the spirit of wood and bark and skin will let him down gradually, like a man crashing through tree branches, who has bailed out of a plane shot out of the sky.

Perhaps he will awaken in a half-submerged, torn canoe, floating in the quiet aftermath of a great fall, the birds still calling to one another as if nothing special has happened.

But he knows that whatever is to come will show up without any need for him to bring it into being.

As if he ever has or ever could . . .

He tells himself that this is his time to appreciate every moment of his surprising journey, in the midst of which an ocean of awareness has never yet left his side.

2 comments to “Before He Knows it”
  1. Beautiful, Michael. Reading this, I felt a chill of recognition. (Or was it the chill of the water?) Gratitude.

  2. This series has the feel of a novella unfolding… and the time and space of the story is not the time and space I’ve become accustomed to… As the reader, I’m no longer in a familiar land, but journeying at the edge of an unknown realm…

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