This I Believe

Jeffe - Oakland, California
Entered on March 27, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe in nothing. What is there to believe in, anyway?

I was strolling along the lake today, musing about eyes. My mother’s eyes, as they dimmed and shut, gazing into mine. Inside I was begging her to stick around. But I knew what she needed; permission to let go. Peace…

A client’s eyes, daring not to look into mine for fear of losing his courage, instead fixing into a distance I could not comprehend beyond the enchanted cliffs of the Grand Canyon. Standing in the warm sand, a croaky whisper the best he could manage. He had walked patiently, slowly, supporting his crippled wife throughout the two week river trip.

“My wife hasn’t stepped from her wheelchair for two years. Being barefoot in the sand for two weeks has done something. I don’t know. Thank you.”

They hadn’t told the office she was disabled. Were worried they wouldn’t let her participate on this, their life’s ultimate dream. Confronted by this conundrum at the put-in, we decided we’d give it a shot. Nothing more than that. And yet; Gratitude…

Which reminded me of Jim’s eyes, wide and thrilled and full of joy, watching us tug his limp body into our raft from his tiny craft below Lava Falls. A young quadraplegic on our experimental disabled river trip, someone had jokingly suggested he go in the inflatable double kayak through Lava, the biggest of the big. I had looked up, wryly smiling, ready to acknowledge reality, insurance, protocol… then just happened to notice his eyes. Lost Hope, reborn…

My dad’s eyes, old and weary and terrified, after his stroke. Then, later, in our home, in his own little bedroom, tucking him into his bed, kissing his forehead. Saved from the horrors of the Dreaded Nursing Home. Thankful. Blessed. Gentle…

“Good night, son.”

My mind wanders, the geese sipping from a rainwater pool at my feet. There are my five-foot tall wife’s eyes, after the earth-consuming forest fire swept through our home like a hurricane from hell. We’d prepared, but how does one prepare for that? Her crippled mother, a dinkie-die true Australian, keeping hydrated with a beer on the couch inside, stoically not sharing her fears, while we tore around with spurting hoses and flailing rakes, barely able to breathe the smoke or bear the heat. And after it was over, lovely Carrie collapses into my aching arms, dirty, exhausted, and smiles that smile that makes me melt, her almond eyes gazing up into mine.

“How’d I do?”

Oh, my friend, my love. You were wonderful.

Bravery. Love. Companionship…

These things, they are…what? The words we use to describe them are inadequate, only hinting around the edges. They invoke the mystery, but cannot grasp what, by it’s very nature, is ungraspable.

I love mysteries. I have been lucky in that I have never needed to clutch or name them. Does that make them less real? Do things really exist if they’re not tangible?

What do I believe in?

Nothing. At least, nothing I can lay my hands on.