March 29, 2005

Old Longing

The old monk takes his morning walk, leaning on the arm of a young monk. The young monk’s head is smoothly shaved, his robes clean and crisp. The old monk’s robes are rumpled, and weeks of stray white whiskers flutter unmowed on his bald head.

“Everything nowadays reminds me of something else,” the old man says. “These roadside marigolds remind me of the flowers in my mother’s garden. The thin smoke from that chimney reminds me of a place I used to live. The things don’t have to resemble each other. A forest path can remind me of the city where I spent my youth. And I welcome reminders of unhappiness just as much. This hill we’re climbing reminds me of a place where was robbed and beaten. Nor do the places have to be taken from my real life. There’s a turn in our walk that reminds me of America, a place I longed to visit and never did. Mostly the places on my walk remind me of longing. When I was your age, I used to smash down longing whenever I felt it. Now I’m feeling longing again and I’m not sorry.”

With a ferocious grimace the young monk jumps into the air, and stomps down with a high–pitched growl. “You are just trying to confuse me! This is just one of your tests!”

The old monk smiles faintly through him. “I remember that too.”