Yesterday, driving out of the farm, my tires spun in wet gravel and I got stuck blocking the road by the goat meadow. No way could I get my car out of there; nearby in the meadow a young billygoat was bleating frantically, trying to extricate himself from the web of tangled twine he had somehow pushed his head through reaching for the alfalfa.
Trapped—me and a young goat.
All of us, really, if you read events as metaphors, as I do. How the heck do we get out of this mess we’re in?
Well, making sure I first was breathing and calm, I carefully set the brakes and turned off the engine and climbed over the goat fence crooning little nothings to help calm him down. …help is near, little boo-boo, how in the world did you get your head in there….?
And then, watching out for kicking hooves I carefully unknotted the twine that was wrapped around his neck threatening to choke him, and stood back while he charged off with not so much as a by-your-leave. The car I simply left where it was blocking the road, figuring someone would come by eventually to help me get it out of there. Which Brent and Leah did a few hours later.
“Have an extra ounce of strength. Go about your business. And get a handyman.” This was a sampler I made as my first gift to Herb when we got married those many moons ago. The quote was from The Empire City by Paul Goodman, and it hung above the kitchen door for decades. The advice, I find, works more often than not—although I would now add to it: “Stay calm if you can!”
That night, after acting the parts of both rescued and rescuer, I dream I am giving a bookreading of my latest book at a Chinese restaurant, and as I reach for the book on the table I realize it is not there. I search everywhere while my audience waits patiently, catching one another’s eyes the more frantic I become trying to find it. Meanwhile, I spill my glass of water and the table starts to sag and I discover under the tablecloth that it is actually a sheet of cardboard that softens into mush as the water soaks through. I watch it helplessly droop and fall apart as dishes crash to the floor, and I am frantic that now my friends will know not to believe my messages of calm in the face of global disaster, as I obviously cannot even handle a book going missing! Oh boy!
I woke up shaking, but after awhile slept again and had another, much better dream of receiving an old lover late at night for a long-awaited tryst—the secrecy and sensuous joy of it, the utter freedom of full love … and somehow the two dreams went together as if reassuring me they were both part of the same picture, the same life. Disaster, then joy in varying proportions. Whyever not?
Maybe we do not get out of this mess we are in, but we learn how to ride it by seeing it as part of a larger picture taking place in cycles of years long beyond imagining, as many ancient texts show us. Perhaps we accept the fact that one brief human lifetime is only a single lesson in a curriculum that continues until the undying parts of ourselves learn the hard lessons of flesh and blood, and that as a species we are the new kids in class.
Perhaps we accept that this very part of the cycle of human history is about destruction and warring as a means of learning how to grow up and rediscover that all this back and forth of hate and harm are really expressions of our fear of death, our fears of not being. But maybe that is based on an illusion and indeed, we can never ‘not be.’ We may have gotten that all wrong—ever consider that possibility?
If there is nothing to fear, then there is no reason to fight. It’s just an old habit born of ignorance, and all it does is make a mess we really don’t need.
Perhaps that is where we start—looking straight at our fears.
I have a plan …
I’ll tell you about it later.