(Author’s note: This story will be blogged in two separate postings, one now and the other within the next few weeks).
There once was a Boy, fair of skin and blue of eyes, who was born in the middle of the U.S.A. It was a green land of oaks and sycamores, soybeans and hog farmers. There were cicadas and fireflies. The people talked slow and went to church. They were conservative, and slow to adopt the inevitable changes that leaked in from both oceans. They voted for John Kennedy, but they were uncomfortable with people whose skin was a different color. It was in the bible, they said.
The Boy lived in a small red brick house. On Sunday afternoons, he would sit on the front porch in a blue metal porch swing. He was surrounded by three other small blue-eyed children. The Boy was the oldest of his siblings. He reminded them often of this. Seated in the middle of these children was a balding man with curly hair and blue eyes. Next to him was a petite woman with green eyes, built to have children, and hard-wired to love them very much. The Boy’s Mother and Father were not afraid to smile or to hold their children close. During thunderstorms, all six of them would crowd onto the porch, giggle, and get scared.
The Boy grew older. He got taller. The voice in his throat changed pitch. He got small whiskers on his chin, and unfortunate red blemishes on his face, It was the year when people put flowers in gun barrels. It was the year when people with black skin got shot in the U.S.A. Thousands of miles away, people with yellow skin got shot too. All in all, it was a time of change. It was in the middle of this change, that the Boy had the dream.
It was a cold Fall night. The oaks were losing their leaves and the Football stadium lights were still warm. The Boy lay in his bed, deep in the impenetrable sleep of adolescence. In the dream there were two dragons. They stood under a hot sun in the searing sand of a desert. One dragon had green and red scales. Stop and Go. Start and Finish. Beginnings and Endings. In one taloned hand he held a small baby. in the other hand he cupped an old man. The dragon had one eye open. The other eye was closed. He spoke to the Boy.
“I am impermanence, Everything that is, will fade away. Nothing will last forever. I will visit you again and again before your death. Each time, I will remind you, that what you have today will be gone tomorrow.”
The other dragon had constantly changing weather systems cyclonically spinning around him. Snow and wind, hail and hot blazing sun appeared and dissipated. As it did, the dragon’s scales would take on different hues and textures. forms and shapes. Adapting and reacting, stabilizing and maintaining balance. In one scaled hand, he held the capital letter “O”. In the other hand, the letter “K” was precipitously balanced. He spoke to the Boy.
“I am equanimity. I will visit you repeatedly when your deepest sorrows and your greatest joys seems so unjustly intertwined and ephemeral. Each time, I will remind you of the white light inside your heart that can never be extinguished. This is the light of resilience and adaptation that you were born with. You will be “O. K.”
The dragons disappeared. The desert faded to black. The Boy woke up. And at that moment, and for the rest of his life, he waited for the dragons to return to him.
The Boy grew up, went to school, and became a teacher. He taught thousands of students, millions of things. He saw the students grow. He learned about patience, compassion, and loving other people. He was among the best at what he did. The dragon of equanimity had returned. The Boy felt balance in his life.
The Boy moved to Africa. For three years, he lived in that place where nothing was familiar. The ways in which he had always defined himself did not matter there. He almost died from Malaria. He questioned everything about himself. He felt adrift in a vacuum tube where his ego had been severely depleted, but where nothing had replaced it.
The dragon of impermanence had returned.
But, through this tumultuous storm of growing, he persevered. He had a good job, and was happily married. He began to have new hope while he waited for his first-born daughter to breathe her first breath. Equanimity had returned.
When his daughter was a month old, she died of a tropical disease that the Boy was very familiar with. The dragon of impermanence was knocking at the Boy’s thin hollow door. The door opened. The dragon flew in. And this time the dragon stayed for many years.
The Boy passed through grief and anger. He begin to forgive himself. He started to love himself again. He worked on his marriage and into his life were born two of the most beautiful daughters. There was balance again. He saw the letters in the other dragon’s outstretched hands: “O.K.”
(This is the end of part one of a two-part blog posting. Within the next two weeks, part two will be posted, Stay tuned.)
Jeffrey Post-Holmberg is a contributing writer for River Notes Blog on the Two Rivers Counseling website.