The world changes constantly. That is a self-evident certainty although I’m barely getting my head around it. As I age, I’m accepting that I am not the same person I was ten years ago, let alone 30 years ago. After making peace with that fact, it has become an adventure to take note of the changes I’ve experienced and the changes that I’m undergoing now. Nothing stays the same. Some things change faster than others do but even the stones, the oldest substances on our planet are changing however slowly by our criteria, and we humans are down here on this little ball in the midst of an enthralling 3D picture show. I feel better looking in the mirror when I accept that continual change is reality.
Personally experiencing the kaleidoscopic patterns of change in my miniverse is the greatest surprise of ageing. The longer I participate in this 3D show the faster time turns the wheel from scene to scene. Oddly, I am surprised by this state of affairs as if it was an isolated discovery. Ironically, the older I am the newer what’s left of my future seems.
During my early years, even though I took for granted that there were wars, natural disasters and social changes, I saw the world as a historic stage where everything that happened followed a script and each event was another scene that would confirm a meaningful process on the way to an even grander conclusion. My world back then consisted largely of external data insulated from my sense of self with a soft focus lens. Of course, such a world had to fall. It was merely the impression of a child experiencing the external world as the inevitable progression of a drama to which I was merely a witness.
Although transformation surged within as I grew and developed, I experienced this inner change against a relatively unchanging backdrop. Now, that backdrop has come free of its moorings and crashed through the living room. People die, ambitions die and so does the slice of time they were dealt. This is relevant now that I’ve moved beyond that phase when one has ageing parents to visit or take care of. I’m now an orphan of time and there are no elders above me. It is both liberating and terribly exposed, it’s as if the roof blew off the family home and then the walls collapsed exposing space in all directions. However, space and freedom are not the same.
At this time, there is a plague of locusts (grasshoppers) literally eating all the green babies in my garden. All winter I looked forward to green grass and flowers. Spring started out well then suddenly everything went south. All the flowers disappeared, sometimes overnight and soon the leaves were also disappearing. Now, the unrelenting heat is making a green lawn with cool shade on the patio a dream. Things are not turning out the way I anticipated. Life is betraying my trust (I failed to notice that it didn’t come with a contract). I so needed that soothing green world after a long stressful winter.
Next, I notice that the eaves on the south side of the house need painting before irrevocably succumbing to water damage, and the cycle of freezing and thawing last winter caused the color stucco to flake off that south side of the house exposing the base of gray cement. This house is ten years old, and upkeep issues are arising. Home ownership seems like just another unwanted burden. I really, I don’t want to climb a ladder (first it to be retrieved from the rez house) in this unrelenting hot weather with paintbrush and pail, or buy, mix and repair the plaster. Then there is some long neglected inside work to do as well. The list quickly tips me toward overwhelm on the energy gauge.
After the fortuitous break of selling two of PQ’s paintings, looking forward to easing the bills and making plans for PQ and me to locate closer to a lung transplant center, several things immediately go expensively wrong, accidentally capped off two days ago when one of my cousins generously made it possible for us to attend a family reunion in Denver. Although we cautiously avoided the urge to hang around and shop in a nearby mall with every temptation one could imagine, or visit old friends and old haunts. We headed straight home after the brunch and on a long incline a few miles north of Walsenburg, the engine began making strange rattling noises. Stopping at a service station in Walsenburg, we discovered that it was almost entirely out of oil and although we immediately filled it with three quarts, it was too late, the damage was done. How stupid! Even though we checked the oil a few weeks ago, we learned that when the air conditioner runs constantly it is important to check it at every gas stop and have oil on hand, especially with 124,000 miles on the odometer. Despite the engine noise, we decided the closer we could get to Taos, the better it would be if we had to be towed. We climbed onward up La Veda pass limping slowly until finally the motor shut down about a third of the way up the Pass. After losing the phone connection many times and speaking to a different AAA representative each time, I finally got a tow truck scheduled.
Trying to remain optimistic, I observed that the weather was nice and La Veda Pass was comfortably cool as we settled down for a four-hour wait. I walked back and forth on the long pull-off shoulder that blessedly appeared just as the car died, and Standing Deer leaned against it watching the sunset. Even he can be patient if the options are basic. Eventually, a young man named Kris pulled up in a tow truck. We enjoyed his company on the drive to Taos. He came out west from Tennessee ten years ago as a result of meeting a young woman from Southern Colorado on My Space (remember My Space, once bigger than Facebook?). Now they have three kids and hopes to buy a double-wide to place on a few wild acres, someday soon. We even talked politics although he is a Republican and it would be easy to step into dangerous territory there. Then we talked about the deer we saw in La Veda the day before lazing on the grass next door to the coffee shop. Deer live a good life in the center of town eating lawns and gardens. Kris said he worked in La Veda as a waiter for several years and along with deer had several downtown bear encounters.
Although a completely unwanted adventure, it was true to the unpredictable essence of life. This morning we got a ride from Son Jay’s girlfriend to mechanic Jim’s place where we had the car dropped off last night. He turned the key and heard the awful banging sound then gave us a quote of $3,500 for a new used motor, and a time quote of about ten days for its arrival from the west coast plus installation. Our family taxi’s heart attack will have a domino effect down the family line and PQ’s other son Corey will have to find a new ride to work, as will we for visits to the post office, grocery store and oxygen supplier. Now I fondly remember the mom and pop grocery stores and drug stores all in walking distance back when I spent summers with my grandparents.
We have arrived at approximately where we began a few months ago minus a car at least temporarily. Although I was hoping to get beyond those worries, Trickster says I’m just not getting it. Obviously, I am doing something wrong. I’ve decided to relax, let the grasshoppers have their way, live with stripped shrubs and brown grass and put my faith in no-thing. Just like the mishap on La Veda pass, I will submit to reality and enjoy the scenery while waiting for a tow truck. It may or may not come but life goes on. I recognize yet another version of the Maybe Story, my favorite Zen teaching story.
This began as is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically."Maybe," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.
"Maybe," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "Maybe," answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "Maybe" he said.