May 23, 2010

In Buddhist scripture, in the Anguttara Nikaya, it says somewhere, "I know nothing that brings suffering as much as an untamed, uncontrolled, unattended and unrestrained heart."

At the Point this weekend, a vacation it was supposed to be, unattended or unrestrained hearts were strewn everywhere. Everyone's imagination was on edge. Last night while preparing dinner, one of the three muses ducked out on to a deck for a smoke. It was early dark, a few last echos of light in the Redwoods. Suddenly, she heard a man shouting through what sounded like a bullhorn. But there was no plausible explanation. This is a remote place. You can't see any other properties much less hear neighbors. This is the last place you'd ever hear a bullhorn.

She came inside and returned to the kitchen completely unnerved, and for several moments stood in a corner with the tea pot warmer in her hands. It's the wind, she said. It has something to do with the wind.

"Gins," said one of the other muses. The conversation turned to the ghosts that haunt the Atlas mountains and then the notorious Aejej wind in Morocco, and that brought to mind the Sirocco and what about the Abroholos in Brazil, the Bad-I-Sad-O-Bist-Roz in Afghanistan, the Austru in Romania, the Brisote in Cuba, the Kolawaik in Argentina.

Here, it's the Chinook and the Santa Ana, which ruins the fruit trees. But this wind in the last few days was neither of those, it's been from the north. Very unusual.

The muses fell silent.

There have been several other strange happenings. The muse that heard the shouting fell down the stairs two days ago. The right side of her face is black, as though she'd been burned. She was coming down the stairs with fresh sheets and then something happened. Now, still in great pain, she's trying to find meaning. Which brings to mind Susan Sontag's warning about the danger of metaphor.

"No, I'm not talking about quite the same thing," said the black-eyed muse. "It's not whether I'm being punished. I don't believe that. But what does it portend? What am I falling into, or from? Have I forgotten how to put one foot in front of the other?"

Everyone nodded. We could all see that.

Someone else told the story of how they they'd been involved in a minor car accident and then a week later lost their job. "As soon as that car hit me I knew my job was gone. I've always associated cars with career."

Someone else said that sometimes — so some Buddhists believe — sometimes a small accident absorbs the impact of what might have been a much larger accident, which has now been avoided.

One of the muses told about the time she had a terrible fight with her husband, only the second time in their marriage. She left their bed and slept in the cabin that faces the sea. Out that window you feel as though on a clear day you could see all the way to China. She said it was the worst night of her life. Filled with ghosts and hauntings and nightmares. This was on the night of December 26, 2004. The next day she read about the great earthquakes and tsunamis that had struck the Indian ocean basin and it occurred to her — and she later came to believe — that perhaps some of those 100,000 spirits had flooded through her house.

And still another story, about a man who had a near death experience and said later, "If I'd only known that I had control of my life."

Everyone nodded even if they had no idea what the man meant.

On that note we began dinner.

The next morning the phone rings, there's bad news. A man across the way, in his 40s, killed himself. He lived with his sister. Apparently, she saw it coming, for years or hours, who knows. She called police, told them he was armed, and dangerous to himself at least. The police arrived. Call out on a bullhorn. But it's too late.

Just this man and his sister. Maybe half a mile away as the crow flies. She works down in the bakery. He sold dope. Then lately something happened. Remember that the wind has been blowing for days. And of course things have not been going well financially for anybody. So he's sitting there. It's early dark, just the echos of light in the redwoods. He's got a gun and he's reached that point where alternatives are falling away. His personal fate is moving like water just before it goes over the falls, heavy and unstoppable. And then the gun itself is saying, 'c'mon now kiss me. Kiss me like you mean it.' And maybe he's thinking of those people that go up to Bixby bridge and jump off. But that takes a courage he doesn't have. All he can do is this. All he can do is think a good thought and hope like mad and then do it. And maybe he can be that happy thought firing around the universe.

Carlotta, the local masseuse, has a theory that people who jump off the Bixby bridge need that beauty, the view of the coastal range and the ocean, to help them jump. And it's all part of a natural process and somehow mother nature is helping you work it out, giving you something when you're past needing anything. A kind of sedative.

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