Tomorrow, I leave for Brazil.
The Zen Peacemaker Order is planning a bearing witness retreat for its members in Bahia, about which I’ll write more later, and I am going down there to “walk” the retreat ahead of time, look into possibilities and contingencies. The retreat is basically already planned due to the good work of my Brazilian work partner, Sensei Koho Mello, and his friends in Bahia. But whenever we developed other such retreats, be they at concentration camps, Rwanda, the Balkans, or the Black Hills in the US, we always went there ahead of time, and this is no exception.
I will write more about this trip, and especially Bahia, but first there are the mundane details of travel. And as I get older, mundane details that I once laughed at become more of a challenge, starting to feel like a retreat by itself.
Rain starts this evening, turns to snow, turns to an ice storm. Or mixed precipitation, as the weather folks call it, which means a combination of rain, snow, sleet, hail, and certainly icing, and continuing till noon tomorrow. The roads will be bad for quite a while after that.
My friends, Byron and Jimena, offered to drive me all the way to Logan Airport 2 hours away and pick me up when I return very early on Saturday morning, March 4. It would save me expensive parking fees. I will also give Jimena close to $1,500 for rent for a mother with three children moving into a shared apartment and covering a heat bill. But driving on icy roads?
I took it up with them this morning and they said it was up to me, but they were okay with it. We agreed they would take me tomorrow driving my car, which has terrific studded winter tires.
But before that, my mind raced. Drive to Boston this evening, stay at an airport motel, and leave car at airport? I’d have to hurry and get out by evening.
And what’s wrong with that? a voice inside asked. Years ago, you packed everything—clothes and the office—inside of 90 minutes for a 3-week trip, not an 8-day trip like this one. You can pull it out.
Physically, I can. But hurrying has become anathema. I know how to do it, how to print out with precision the travel documents I need, how to pack clothes on the list, how to focus without losing my head. I just don’t want to hurry anymore.
The Zen teacher Nancy Baker, who just published her wonderful book Opening to Oneness, said that there are all kinds of stealing. When we hurry, she said, we’re stealing from the future. I stand guilty as charged and wish to change my ways. I want to slow down, do things fully. Someone said that if you do something wholeheartedly, all sentient beings come into your life.
Go down to the basement and bring up the valise, which is at least 25 years old. Feel the canvas and Bernie comes in; it was he who urged me to get the Eagle Creek valise, saying it’s expensive but sturdy and has a lifetime guarantee.
Open up the top flap and rummage around with my fingers. Did mice get in? Mice enter the moment.
A tiny earring falls out; I must have left it from my last trip. I pick it up, remember I wore the earring in my trip to Israel in December, and instantly Israel and the Sinai, where we went for a long weekend, enter the moment.
Aussie sniffs the valise, walks away. She doesn’t like it when I pack. Henry, on the other hand, drops Albert, the stuffed puffin, inside because Henry loves to drop his toys inside every container in the house, including the dishwasher, the laundry bin, the trash, and now the valise. I shoo him away and remove Albert, but Henry, Aussie, and Albert both have entered my life, along with Grand Manan Island where I bought him Albert last summer and the people I met there.
My years of travel with Bernie enter the moment, the many treks across airports pulling the valise on its reliable wheels, surrounded by thousands of folks from all nationalities, Bernie fingering the cigar ready in his shirt pocket because he can’t wait to get into the car and smoke.
Are you bored with your life? Do something wholeheartedly, and you don’t have to worry about living in some rural, unseen corner of the universe, the entire universe enters your life, right there at your fingertips. It’s all there, even as I’m conscious of only the tiniest fraction of it.
Snow has begun. And tomorrow? Will we make it on the icy roads? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe I’ll miss the plane, maybe the flight will be canceled along with 1,200 cancelled flights today, many more tomorrow. That won’t be in my hands. Drive slowly, focus on my breath, abide Dude-like. Don’t hurry.