I Am

There is a bucket hanging from a rope above the creek, a white enamel-ware pail suspended from a black cast-iron pulley with the word Bethlehem embossed around the outside of the wheel. When he lowers the bucket he hears the sound of dry metal on metal, the friction squeal of rusted iron that makes him think of train couplings and manhole covers. But also the sound is bird-like, and when he hears it from his bed at night he sees a blue-jay or a crow, so that it could, this one sound, launch him into any number of dreams, fantasies and adventures, where the island of his imagination is a secret kingdom of mysteries and the old man some order of wizard presiding over a realm of tree-walkers and mermen.

*

Somehow it was the bucket that sparked this illusion, the sound of the bucket pulled up, and going down, the need for water. That was a lonely sound and, now that I think about it, it sounds like a cry – a cry for lost things. A cry for light. Light that reflects off the surfaces of objects. That is what we remember. Reflections. Illusions. Light. A tapestry of senses woven with threads of light. Light defines the shape of our living. New light gathering and old light remembered. Shapes and volume. Depth and color. Texture, tone, shadow. Our memory is a catalog of illuminated spaces. Our places in the spaces we have lived.

BirdBath 583

Light sets our position in the constellation of living. Light gathers to create a figment of an image that tricks your eye into believing something is real and true. Faces you’ve seen thousands times, places you’ve been, things you once knew, things you love, the preservation of all the things that light has touched. So you surround yourself with artifacts, you ensconce yourself in the sensations triggered by the reflection of light. Because if you can hold it and see it or smell it or hear it, it’s not gone. You keep and you hold and you hoard and collect. You try to remember everything, yet you still need proof. You need proof you were living so you can to ward off death. How you face the future depends on how you hold onto the past. That’s what you think, but you get to a be a certain age, or to a critical point in the living history of yourself when you realize you are wrong.

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These objects that you hold so dear, they’re not who you are. These things you search for and discover, they don’t create or affirm you. All the trinkets and old treasures, the things you collect that you think reflect who you are. They are not mirrors. Suddenly it dawns on you that nothing outside yourself is yourself and nothing you see is even what it seems to be. Fictions. Illusions. Just because someone held it, just because it was made a hundred years before you were born, just because it can be saved, and felt with your hands, and seen with those two precious eyes of yours, doesn’t mean it has any more power than a pebble or a mote of dust. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

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I have searched and I’ve questioned and on the subject of myself I have scrawled a million words but I still don’t know who I am. The difference now is that it no longer matters. There is no knowing. There is no need to know. The hide and seek is over. I am found, and I am, is all.

One day, if you’re very lucky, you’ll wake up and realize that all those mementos and books? They’re just deflections. The arrowheads and seedpods and fossils and bones? Nothing but a grim reminder that we all pass on. But you think if you can hold onto some fragment of the ancient past, some artifact, some proof, that maybe you too might live on. What a fool you were old friend. We are dust.

This is one voice talking to another voice. This is the moth talking to the caterpillar. Inner dialog, not a sermon. I don’t inch along on the stems of the leaves, I fly brothers and sisters, I fly.

Light is precious but it’s not something I can hold onto. They say that we are made of light and maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to its various reflections. But I am the light, not the form. You can’t hold it unless it’s trapped inside the structure of some body, some object, and we’re drawn to it like insects, tapping against a glowing lantern in the night. That’s not the sun. That’s not home.

*

When I see your face the stones start spinning.

So says Rumi. So says I. There’s something inside the one we choose to love, a recognition; that is the lantern glow of home. I can see it in your eyes and all over your skin like the bioluminescence of a jellyfish. I know you because I know your lightprint. Our photons co-mingled eons before you took your current form. There’s no hiding this and no switch to turn it off. We vibrate at the same frequency, you and I. Time cannot hold us, time cannot stop us. Light defies time.

I finally understand that none of what I thought mattered means anything compared to this. I am here now and I am sacred. God made me perfect and He made me whole. I never did need those ruby slippers. All I once believed was just a dream. So I just quit time like I quit drinking. Clocks and calendars, I dumped them down the bathtub drain. That leaves me with naked light and just this moment. I am, I am, I am. That’s a rhythm of a heart.

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o O o

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