Benefit of a Doubt

At Pella Crossing there are extra police cars and rangers. There are dogs and horses, people walking, and fishing in waders. There’s a great blue heron standing fluffed with her neck tucked. A ranger says white powder was found on a trail. Does he mean scattered about or in a bag? There is a car left for a few days he’s suspicious of. You should be able to do exactly what you usually do, he says, except the hound dog might bark at your dogs.

 

Chloe hides in tall grasses and willows when anyone walks past. Every 20 inches or so, a grasshopper jumps. Jake pounces, then lies down and paws the grasshopper (as I’m untangling Chloe I hear crunch, crunch). We hear the hound bark and howl, probably over by the three lakes, West of 75th.

 

When we are farthest from the parking lot, where the water goes into the fields, by the biggest cottonwood, a man walks out of the brush. He’s bald and has an open face, surprised. He looks like a yoga teacher or a Zen teacher. The dogs bark and I say I’m sorry and he says I’m sorry. The man moves around us apologetically, ducking and glancing, and walks ahead. His grey sweatshirt has a light purple stain down the back, like a map, and cuffs of his pants drag, dirty and baggy (I can’t remember his shoes). He doesn’t seem to be carrying anything. By the time we round the bend, toward the tracks, and I bother to look up ahead he’s nowhere.

 

When we get back to the parking lot there are five officers around a small navy blue car with peeling paint. One holds a phone to her ear. One holds a bent cloths-hanger. A ranger walks alone toward the old cottonwood.

 

I probably should say something but I don’t say. Are there sides? Am I on a side?

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There’s a phrase called Idiot Compassion. That’s like when you give the alcoholic a drink when he asks. Our theme at the Wednesday night meditation was, Look Again. Kathy said what if the person needs the drink in order to live, in order not to die unassisted. What if you can’t bring the guy to the hospital and he has been in and out of rehab and that’s over and they are on their last days and they live in the wilderness.

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At Jikoji in the 1960’s squatters stayed even though the land was being converted to a Zen center. Kobun’s vision was everyone could live there together; guys back from Vietnam, hippies, earth people, mentally distressed, along with Zen students. There was a big guy with weapons and he kept disturbing the Zen people as they were sitting. Maybe he shouted. Maybe he played loud music. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. When it got really bad Kobun asked one of his students for his rifle. Kobun marched up to where the big guy was working on his truck, carrying beer and a rifle. Everyone wondered what Kobun was up to. He came back with no gun. When asked, Kobun said, I gave him the gun in exchange for not hassling us.

 

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I drive to Ft. Collins for an EMDR session. I am on my second week and so far it is pre-EMDR. The therapist gives me a single sheet of paper with categories. I am to fill in traumatic events in this line and all the helpful people and places in this other line. I don’t seem to be doing it. Sometimes the unhelpful people are helpful and so on. They belong in an altar, a spiral, a sand sculpture, or scattered into the Harpswell beach water at the turning of the tide as the sun drops behind the reef and gulls and cormorants stand absolutely still. I wonder if I’ll be fired for not doing my assignment. Then I’d have another line to fill in.

 

The next session I am sweating as I interrupt the therapist’s question. I have not accomplished my task. I tell her what I want to focus on. She leans in, curious, explains how it’s my session. I think she has given me the benefit of a doubt. Afterwards I drive to Whole Foods and eat chocolate pudding, the kind made from cocoa, coconut, avocados and dates.

 

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This morning Jake runs to the door for his walk. He sits as I try to figure out how the harness goes. Chloe whines like she wants to come. I call her to come and she stays frozen on the couch. Chloe, you fit here, I say, right beside Jake, and I show her an empty place to Jake’s left. She runs exactly there.

 

~ o ~