No One Gets Out Alive

Prayer Flag

Prayer flag, birch bark

Sometimes, when I’m walking, I write in my head. Actually, this happens a lot. Sometimes, I wish I could transcribe the words from inside my head. Sometimes, I repeat them, find a rhythm, kind of like when you really have to pee on a walk but hold it until you get home. Ha.

Sometimes.

This morning, I went for a walk after Pearl got on the bus. Her face was such a fresh sight. She is not thinking about bombings or terrorism. She is thinking about her birthday party and she wanted to know if I thought this was offensive: “All poets are fools, but not all fools are poets.”

I told her no, I didn’t think so — though it may well be true.

Step over step — I thought about Tikki Tikki Tembo and the way the Old Man With the Ladder saves first Chang, and then his brother with that dreadfully long, nearly fatal name.

Step after step. Breath after breath. Enter, exit, enter, exit. The one exit we all have in common is obvious to me as I walk, and later, I find myself wondering what price I’d pay for life, and whose. It’s odd, how my thoughts today come to this, to these. It seems extreme, but what I am thinking is: “I’d give my life for her, for them.”

There is a rhythm to walking. I stop and start once I’m down on the farm, less than a mile from my house. I look at the tiny buds in the sunlight. The hawk soaring over and away. I picture the tattoo I want on my right upper arm, a colorful hawk feather. Mani is the hawk.

There’s a birch tree in someone’s front yard, across from the Mormon church. The light behind it is beautiful. I feel that aliveness of cold air and the way walking is medicine and prayer without those words becoming meaningless.

I made Pearl two pieces of french toast. I thought about Brussels and how I’ve been to that airport. I was 14. That was almost 30 years ago. No one gets out alive, and yet this isn’t upsetting to me today, more fact the way seasons changing is fact or the way sun rising is fact or the way we need milk is fact.

Sometimes, I want to lie down on the ground and stay there a while, like a fawn. Quiet. Receiving sun and air and hawk overhead and nothingness but still very much alive. I want to twirl in the hills that are alive with music. I want to walk through alleyways so narrow you have to turn your body sideways just to pass through, a needle in time.

Sometimes, the moments and months and decades and centuries fall on top of each other like stones. There is a toppling. I look for a way in, and then I look for a way out, and it is the same opening.

Step, step, breath, breath.