We’ve had such wet weather that I didn’t wish to go into the puddle-filled, mosquito-laden woods. Instead I took Stanley and walked the grounds of what used to be the Zen Peacemakers’ headquarters on the Montague Farm. Years ago we did our meditations and retreats in its beautiful refurbished barn, as well as winter intensives usually led by a senior student. At the end of the intensive we’d plant a tree in honor of the senior student, and we planted three while we were there.
So on this day I walked down to see them, and all were doing well. One, a pear tree, hadn’t grown much over time, but now I looked across the pasture and there it was, shooting tall above the neighboring blueberry patch right to the sky. I was so surprised I decided to have a closer look, and to do that I went through a large patch of wet weeds as tall as my neck and my feet sank into the muddy earth. My clothes got drenched. Stanley, of course, very reasonably refused to go into dense weeds taller than he was, and soon I lost him completely. Later I discovered that he just went down to the road and started walking home, probably to tell Bernie that I’m crazy..
But I made it to the tall pear tree and there it was, practically shaking pears in my face, laughing as if to say: You thought I wasn’t making it, eh? Well, take a look! It practically dropped a green pear right on my forehead.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how hard it is for many people to meet life on its own terms. When I was a girl and finally had my own room, the only place I felt safe was in that room. The outside world was a world I didn’t understand, and every time I went out through that front door I felt I was entering a mine-filled no-man’s-land. It wasn’t the streets I was afraid of, it was people.
In high school I took a private van to school with other kids who knew how to do banter and small talk, who knew how to dress and joke around—all things I couldn’t do. I had not been born there, the culture still felt strange; I had no idea how to be an American kid. I was so scared of that van that at times I walked a mile to the subway and then took four trains to school rather than using the van that my parents worked hard to pay for.
Years passed. I’m still not good at small talk and parties; difference is, who cares? I’m comfortable in my own skin. But I know many who are not.
How do we go out into the world? By staying connected to the inside. By not letting that connection fray through running around or working manic work hours. Out there is both beauty and beast. Out there is competition and bullying, the instinct to survive at all cost and the desire to come out on top. I think of Donald Trump as someone who met that world years ago and decided that the only way he’d survive would be to say YOU’RE FIRED! right back to it.
If we don’t become bullies we may build ourselves a fortress and hide in the cellar.
Don’t lose the connection with deep inside. If you’re always aware, if you know deeply who or what you are, you finally see that the rest takes care of itself.