The sun bends to the water’s will; this is my favorite expression of saccidānanda, when perceived boundaries melt and merge. Photons move, are swayed, and halt. It’s the swaying at the gradient that catches my attention. I float still for hours as shadows swirl around me remembering their true selves. Although it’s fashionable to proclaim forgetting as an essential step to salvation, I have a different understanding: it’s the ever-changing flow between remembering and forgetting that leads to peace; enlightenment lays within the tension between uncertainty and anticipation. I know this is at odds with convention—I am well versed in the art of letting go; of meandering into emptiness; of relinquishment. Perhaps I have never attained, and maybe I never will, so be it. I’m at peace as long as I can witness the grand interplay between the reflected and the reflection; as long as I can probe the interface between the symbols we anticipate as reality, and the emptiness we cannot.
At night, when the lights come on at the bottom of the pond, objects take on the appearance of their forebears. They reach back into their evolutionary line to their individualized first transitions. Sawgrass casts the shadows of the primeval forest from which it sprung—I remember the smell of the first rot, the heat of the newly released or emerged. At night my neighboring fish grow into leviathans. They disperse into lonely journeys. When the sun breaks they’ll reform and rejoin, but in the night they are monsters scouring the seas in search of one another—I remember that too: I remember crying, I remember loss, and I remember a fondness of death.
At night the kudzu, once again, become lotuses. From their flowers bodhisattvas are born; eventually remembering the buddhas from whose many aspects they were shaped. By morning these newly formed ancients will vanish leaving, once more, the kudzu that feeds and protects me.
I sense my personal night coming—I know it the same way moonflowers know when it’s time to make firm and open to the night. I will once again walk on firm ground, and embrace gravity as he absentmindedly gropes my breasts. I will once again enjoy the sensuous pleasure of the tensing of my calves. I will no longer swim under the old ones, or nibble from their leaves. I smell the tension of anticipation and nostalgia.
It takes me a couple of days to recognize him. I am enthralled in the changing of the light and enraptured by the shadow play, absorbed by cold water gently warming as sunlight intermingles with the surface pushing gentle currents through the pond. I take him to be just another shape refracted and strained by the interplay of surfaces. Slowly I began to see the silhouetted figure leaning against the base of the ficus. It takes me a few days more to say goodbye to my home, to scratch myself against the bottom rocks one last time, and to watch my koi keen forget their monstrous nature.
When I am satisfied I have witnessed the fullness of the pond I leap out of the water. At the apex of the arch I remember other worlds. I remember knowing about the transition and ground and gravity. And I remember how to make the change.
In mid-somersault I open my arms wide and kick out my legs. The fabric of my cheongsam feels scratchy against my skin, but it’s snugness will be comforting. I look down happy it’s brilliant red and black and as radiant as the sun. For a moment I long to be a fish again, I long for cold water flowing through my gills, but I’m excited by the promise of exploring my other nature. I land in a patch of unfiltered sunlight and my face burns.
For a time I am disoriented and bewildered. I struggle against my own weight. The wet moss and grass between surprises my toes, it’s cold and warm, its slimy consistency is revolting, but delightful in its completeness. Their is the added sensation of smelling for the first time, of the earth communicating its essence through the air—decaying wood and pollen and mud. I remember that, and I am titillated by memories of past transitions. Blinded by the harsh light of an afternoon sky, but embraced by neighboring spirits—their odors and textures comfort me as I relearn what it means to be on land.
I approach the shadowy figure and sit beside him. With a nod he hands me a sandwich. An endearing gesture—I’m flattered that Abra remembered I’m always hungry after a change. We sit in silence. He gives me time to enjoy my new-found weight and to relish the firm ground beneath me, to appreciate the way skin feels cool after it stops burning, and how accepting it is of the warmth of the sun afterwards. The brittle paper crinkles and tears under my fingers—its texture is all I need to know the sandwich is from a forgotten deli in New York—whose forebear city is Xian—home of chefs and soldiers. The crispness of the paper indicates the sandwich was prepared with love by the red hands of an artist who understands the necessity of honoring the old ways. The cucumber snaps between my teeth and I shiver with joy—I remember basking in the hot sun and fiercely growing twice my size a day. The mustard take me back to Gaul—to monks seeking redemption and power. Before I have a chance to lose myself in nostalgia Abra grounds me: “I like your dress,” he says.
And I am pleased he noticed. “It’s the skin of koi,” I explain and my body quivers with joyous memories of being submerged. He smiles and touches my arm and I quiver, once more, with joyous memories of warm bodies and tenderness.
“You’ve been gone for a while,” he says.
“Not so long.”
He strokes my hair and slowly kisses me, but before I have a chance to stray away again he pulls me back in with just a look and a tightening grip.
“My wondrous Carp, your sense of time never fails to amuse me. It’s a wonderful skill to cultivate…you’ve been perfecting it for as long as I can remember.”
“Oh, come on. Stop teasing me. It’s only been…a year or two?”
“Try nine, my darling. Nine years of communing with pond consciousness.”
Time tends to get away from you when you witness the continual cycle of rebirth and oneness. I stare over the pond I had spent a decade in and can scarcely remember what it had been like. Clouds hang in the sky, and I feel at peace knowing they’re my guide.
“I know how much you like it here. I wouldn’t have disturbed you, but there’s something going on with our friends of the in-between. I thought you would enjoy watching them for a while.”
He rose, kissed me once more, and leapt into the air. With a single beat of slate-blue wings he vanished over the trees.