Mount Rainier levitated in the clouds across Puget Sound. I sat on the beach, water rippling up to my bare feet. I looked down the beach towards where the Sound emptied on to the Pacific Ocean. Turning in the other direction, I saw him sitting about 30 feet away. He turned his head slightly in my direction, then turned it forward again. I got up, walked down the beach and sat down next to him. That familiar half-smile I’d seen in all the pictures on Buddha Daily rippled across his face.
“Hello,” I said.
He said nothing. Only breathed softly. Deliberately.
“I know,” I said. “I just can’t seem to make time for it.”
He chuckled softly, but still said nothing.
“There’s just so much to do,” I said and gazed out at the gentle waves.
“You’re doing everything you need to do. But nothing gets done,” he said. “Nothing needs to be done. You need to want nothing.”
“I’m not following you,” I said.
“You are not meant to follow me,” he said, his eyes half-closed. “You must awaken yourself.”
“I know,” I said. “But there’s just so much –“
“Ah ta ta ta,” he said, sounding exactly like Mr. Miyagi. “There’s nothing but love, compassion and truth.”
“Yeah, but what is my truth?” I asked him.
“That you have lost yourself.” The baby elephant he had become turned to me, reached out his trunk and flicked the end of my nose.
I smiled a big smile at him.
“Really? An elephant?”
“You always say you want an elephant,” he said. He dipped his trunk in the approaching tide waters and splashed water on both of us.
“Stop it,” I laughed. “What do I need to do to find myself again? And please, I want a direct answer. Though I appreciate this “words of the sage” approach.”
“First, you must meditate again. Every day. As you were doing before the fog took you. One, two, three times throughout the day. But you must do it. You must find yourself again. Find the equilibrium of who you are. That’s why I have come. I’m the True Self you have forgotten.”
“What then?” I asked and looked up at the sun setting behind the horizon on Bedlam Farm.
“Reawaken the man you were when you first dreamed of this place,” I turned to find a hulking black steer towering over me.
“Elvis!” I turned and surveyed the lush green fields all around us.
“I was always your favorite of Jon’s animals,” he said and smiled. If steers can smile, that is. Red had come over and sat next to me. I scratched him behind his ears as he groaned with delight.
“You were centered, you were sober, you had begun studying Buddhism and meditation and you had found the biggest reason to be excited in a very long time,” he said.
“Yeah, and then I started working this bizarre schedule and the wheels started to fall off the wagon,” I said. He looked at me quizzically.
“Find another metaphor than falling off the wagon,” he advised.
“Good point,” I said.
“You began to isolate yourself from everything, just like Scott. And you did some crazy, stupid, irrational things,” he said and swatted a fly from the top of my head with his tail without moving.
“I had to work. After the Humane Society, I had to work,” I argued. “I did the pet-sitting, then the holidays came and I got the piano and …”I drifted off.
“The piano is a very, very good thing,” he said. “And you may just tinker with your brain enough to truly make a difference in how your brain works. But you’ve forgotten the thinking and the feeling and the being that truly filled your mind, body and spirit with joy. Not to mention you’ve gained ten pounds when you weren’t looking. You let the darkness overcome you and the darkness has no place on the Farm. No place in your life. Jon told you you are worthy and better than the darkness. Reawaken to the man you were when you started the blog and so many came to sit and hear your stories,” Elvis said and brought his enormous tongue all the way up from my jaw to my ear. Twice.
“I get to go on my blog and say I was kissed by a steer,” I said.
“More like a gopher.”
I was sitting on the floor of a balcony overlooking the Chicago River. Next to me was a furry little beast frantically scratching his ears with his hind leg.
I blinked twice, licked my lips and ran my hand over my chin a couple times. “I get your point, but why are you now the gopher from Caddyshack?”
The gopher grinned, then threw an acorn at my cheek. He hit it squarely.
“This is your blog. Which makes it my blog too. And I choose to be a gopher,” He said. “You need to refocus, to reawaken to the things you want to do at this time. Need to do.”
“What are those?”
“Start with the meditation. Piano, finding a new job, exercise, and for god’s sake please quit smoking,” the gopher said.
“That one is –“
“Yes, that one is going to be the hardest of all. You have 25 years of healing to do according to that “stop smoking” web site. But it’s time. And you won’t save any money for the trip to Bedlam unless you do it,” he said. He hopped into my lap and started cracking a walnut on my boot. “And of course, Empty Calories.”
“”That one is –“
“That one is going to be perhaps the most difficult of all but you have to face Him. Over and over again. But I’ll be here.”
I was sitting on the front steps of the house I once shared with my fiancé. The house where it all happened. Next to me sat a white and gray Akita on one side and a jet black Newfie on the other and a Bernese Mountain Dog lay on the ground with his head where the gopher was a moment before.
“Your blog, my blog, your head, our rules, remember?” they said. “Your blog, The Back Forty, all your personal observations. They’re easy, they’re fun and you can occasionally throw them out into cyberspace when the spirit moves you, but you have big work to do. Please, for your sake and the sake of the ones who love you, the ones who want to know what happened to you, and the ones who will benefit from reading your story and know that life is simply different now, but no way is it over. The dream you have of being a motivational speaker and a published author and everything that will go with that. It all starts with finishing the book.”
“I must reawaken to the good and pure things and forget all distractions,” I said. I was sitting on a slope on Mount Hood where I had hiked many years ago. Kilgore was sitting next to me.
“This was one of our favorite mountains. That would be a great book title,” I said. “My favorite mountain.”
Kilgore pawed my leg, “Focus, my friend,” He said and laid his head on my thigh and I stroked his white ascot of fur.
Refocus. Reboot. Reawaken.
The clouds came washing over the mountain and enveloped me.