By Katharine Kaufman
Photo Credit Roger Kaufman
“If you touch the wave, you touch the water. The moment the wave realizes she’s water she knows she is deathless. Wave is not running to look for water. Beyond beginning and ending; up and down, being and not being. This is to touch our true nature.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“Everything you need is here,” the teachers say.
When I first heard this, I thought it was a brilliant idea. But secretly, I didn’t buy it. Is everything somehow rushing to this point like the small dot of the beginning of the universe forming? What is the connection between my days and “everything is here?” I tried really hard to do it. I swooshed away what was not here, what bothered me, like a breaststroke trying to move water, rather than propel myself through what was already water, what was already kindly holding me.
My mother said about people, “They are solid,” as a complement. Now, to call someone fluid, or a system, seems more relevant.
I miss Maui, where I visited my brother, Rog (who I miss). I miss the way my skin feels there. I miss the sound of waves and smaller sound of shore. The thin rain, I miss, the waterfalls rushing down to a pool and the views of the wide ocean rain coming in. I miss the way my chest feels like jelly as I am driven by my brother through the curvy roads he knows well. Even though he’s lived in Hana for a year he still takes photos of rainbows and sunrises with his phone.
“Take this one! Take this one!” I say. “Take one of me in downward dog as the sun rises and the barely noticeable tide flows over my wrists, and my under my hands are little islands.”
“Ok,” he says. “The standing ones look perfect.”
“Perfect,” I say.
All of it, everything is nature here. Even the airports are half outside, and at night lights are kept low so birds can see night stars and the moon to migrate. People sit on long, curved benches together with their luggage. Just to the side of this area green and blooming, fragrant wild nature lives. Rather than going back through plant security to the bathroom, I go off to the side and brush my teeth in the sweet flowers in semi-darkness.
On the plane my mind repeats images and I call it memory. I call it dream. I think I have been here. I try to remember something important. It’s vague and disappears.
It’s like when you see a person walk towards you, but then as you look again, you realize they must have been headed another direction. They are simply gone.
It’s morning when I land in Denver. There’s a thin shell of frost over my entire car. I turn the car on, and scrape. It’s weird how the sun rises so quickly. I just saw it set over the ocean not too many hours ago. I try to explain this significance of time travel to various people, but they are not impressed enough with my question, and need to get going.
I tried to explain to my brother that I think of my car, just sitting here in section JJ 1, by the stone wall. As I fly on several planes and go to the beach, and up and down stairs, shake out sand, roll my clothes, and pull the zipper to expand my suitcase, pour tea for myself again, I think of my car sitting there— hot, cold, frost, melt.
Back home the trees are brown sticks. It’s a dirt back yard since the hackberry tree came down and there was no rain most of last summer and the summer before. Nose to ground, I sniff for anything that might be green, coming up. The green leaves of dandelions, parsley, and sorrel. Barely there. The nature I’m looking for is under the ground.
I put a pot of rice on the burner. Set the timer and sit down. When I forget I am breathing I go back to my breath. When I’m in my head I return to my body. Then I realize it’s not only Maui and the coast and shore I miss.
I realize I miss my mother. I miss my mother from long before now, my young mother. And I miss my mother four weeks ago as she said to me, bright as a bell, out of her dementia, “How many classes are you teaching? Your students are so lucky.”
And then she repeats the question a few moments later.
“I just told you,” I say and then I give up and tolerate the question again.
“She’s here! You know. Who is she?” she says.
“Janet, Carrie, Kiley, Rene, Ariana.” I say the names of her caretakers.
“It’s Ariana! I need to go. Want to know something?”
“What is it?”
“I adore Maxie.”
“Give him a pat for me,” I say.”
“Here, talk to him,” she says.
“No, no.” but I’m too late. I know she’s holding the phone to Max’s ear.
“Hi Maxie, what a good doggie you are,” I say.
“He’s wagging,” she says.
“Thank you for calling,” she says.
And that was the last thing ever.
I look for another word, some kind of proof that Polly Kaufman was this whole human being who was quick, witty, sharp, bossy, and interested in everything. I look at the book my mother wrote about women in the park service, going West. Inside, in my mother’s clear handwriting: To my daughter, Katharine, for her shining example. Love, Mom.
The rice is boiling in its water in the other room; the timer clicking away. I sit down and feel this nature in me, around me. I think it appears and disappears. That’s nature, I say to myself, my true moving nature.
It’s my turn now, to try to present this big wash of tender thing to my students.
I could say, “Everything is rushing into this moment—for now.”
Maybe we could find what this is, together.
Join Katharine at these upcoming programs:
About Katharine Kaufman
Katharine Kaufman teaches Yoga, meditation, writing workshops, and contemplative dance in Boulder County, at Drala Mountain Center in Colorado and online. She studied Yoga in Mysore, South India, and taught for many years at The Yoga Workshop, Studio Be and Naropa University. She holds MFAs in Performance/Choreography as well as Writing/Poetics. Her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, Elephant Journal, bottle rockets, and the anthologies, Uncontained, Writers and Photographers in the Garden and the Margins, and Precipice. She contributes essays to Drala Mountain Center’s blog.
Katharine is ordained in the Soto Zen lineage.