IN THE HEAT

Woods behind the Monte Farm in fall

“Another Medicare call!” I exclaim happily on the phone. “How much are they paying you to do this? Don’t hang up, I’m counting on you for entertainment.”

But the man hangs up. He must be Medicare scam call number 72, and by now I look forward to them. I’ve tried other responses as well, all in an effort to keep them on the phone:

“Do you love your husband?” I asked one woman.

“What’s your favorite TV program?”

 “Who do you think will win in November?”

They hang up every time. Why? I see scams as an alternative business model, so I hold them to a higher standard. For one thing, they put live people on the phone. They’re ready to give you more of their time and are happy to put their supervisor on if you give them certain details, like your Medicare number. Also, their English is way better than customer service folks working for legit corporations, and I get excited when they call.

“You believe in people!” I want to tell them, “not just robots. Good on you, mate!”

But they hang up. I think the one thing they lack is a sense of humor.

Here in Massachusetts, we share the same heat alerts as about 135 million other Americans, so this morning I gave up my climately correct aspirations and put on the A/C. It’s been fans till now.

I go out with the dogs in the morning, trying to beat the heat (okay, not beat it, I’m a peacemaker after all). Went to the Montague Farm the other day, the same Farm that Zen Peacemakers once owned and where we lived communally for a couple of years. We lost it after the 2008 economic collapse.

Perhaps, too, we lost it because we didn’t listen to the land. Bernie had lots of plans, but the place is not interested in plans, in hosting small cabins on the hilltop (water table is too high) or inside the woods over the creek (lots of mosquitoes). It’s never going to be a Zen Peacemaker campus, as Bernie had hoped; it’s not going to serve any purpose but its own.

I never felt I lost it. I’ve walked there with two generations of dogs over 22 years. There have been two changes of ownership, and each time I’ve asked the new “owners” for permission to walk there, only to be surprised that they know about me already. “From what I hear,” the last one said, “you’re the only one who’s consistently here.”

Not every day, but probably every week. The blueberry patch, the orchard, the trees arching over the path into the woods, the rivulet bubbling its way down to the creek. When have I ever received so many gifts?

“You let Aussie run there on her own? Aren’t you afraid of a predator?” Not really.

“What about you? What happens if you fall and break something, or even a bad twist of the ankle? Would anyone know how to find you?” Not right away. Maybe never.

 “Henry!” I shouted the other morning as we walked towards the woods. He doesn’t get the same freedom as Aussie because he’s too small. I turn back and a young deer appears some 30 feet ahead of me on the path. We both stop and take each other in. Its eyes are wild and indecipherable; I guess it’s young and curious.

I know nothing about that wildness, all I know is my own human world cultivated with layers and layers of cognition and meaning, none of which have anything to do with the deer. I stop thinking. The white hairs on my forearms tremble in the shade, the feet sink deeper into the wet ground. We share air, heat, dampness. Strangers with the same mother.

It suddenly looks up and back, and that instant I hear Aussie’s high-pitched, deer-chasing bark. She’s not after this deer, but perhaps it’s family. It raises its head and walks even closer towards me. I stand rooted in my spot. Ten feet away it suddenly bounds off the path and into a meadow of tall grass. It has the bushiest white tail I’d ever seen. It pauses, listening, then bounds a few more times, pauses, takes a few more bounds, pauses, and then disappears.

I remembered the last time a deer had come so close. In the fall of 2014 Bernie and I returned from our second meeting in the Black Hills to discuss our first Bearing Witness Retreat there, to take place in the summer of 2015. It was a good meeting that ended badly, the Lakota elders staying noncommittal even as we were planning for 150 people to attend. We’d come home tired and in low spirits, and Bernie said we should cancel the whole thing.

But the very next morning I took Bubale the Pit Bull and Stanley the whatever to those same woods, and in that exact spot on the path a deer had run down and approached me close enough to touch, locking eyes with me before turning and running down to the creek. I came home and said to Bernie that we had to go on with this, somehow it would work out.

Right now, July 10, the 10th such retreat is in session in the Black Hills.

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