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Photograph by Liza Head

I wonder how many people live in the very present moment, all the time? Or maybe even half the time? I wonder what the intensity of immediate experience would be if I could really be present in it. As it is, my life is a continuous transitioning from past to present to future to past. I am a time-traveler who’s lost their way.

Yesterday during service there was a picture of a Bible with a red, rustic ornamental design around the edges, and immediately I was taken back to the Cluny museum in Paris, thinking about the tapestries there (with similar ornate designs). When we were in France with a group from school I remember we traveled to a city with a famous cathedral and a huge, 70-meter long tapestry that we walked along with little tour-guide recorders, listening to the sing-song story-telling of a lady in French describe the battles and sieges depicted in the deep blue and red hues of the weave.

I also had the overbearing, yes, overbearing memory of a large, airy hall in the 14th arrondissement where an eucumenical group hosted a large exhibit of old and even ancient Bibles in different languages. There were booths and models of the Temple, educational material on the culture and history of those times. I had volunteered to help set up and organize the event. Maybe it was the city hall or something like that. The face of Claude, a kind, older woman who introduced me to the movement, came to me with impressive impact. For a few moments it was as if I had to catch my breath. This always happens when I recall something I haven’t thought of for a long time.

Now, a day later, I sit enveloped in the feelings not of that memory, but of my dream. My parents had invited several folks to visit, and due to logistical issues we all arrived on the same evening. There was an old friend of mine whom I met as an undergrad at UCSD. She was a graduate student TAing for one of my classes, and we’ve kept in touch, more or less, since. There was an even older friend, let’s call him Jamaal, whom I met in school and who played and continues to play a pivotal role in my life, though I have not spoken to him in many years. Last night before I went to sleep Greg and I had talked about the feel of black people’s hair, and my memories of Jamaal’s hair, its springy, pronounced softness, like thousands of micro-wires glowing with copper-colored energy, penetrated into the dream and through it, to now. As I slept we were trying to figure out the complex issue of who would sleep where. My parents were befuddled and slightly embarrassed, it was deep in the night that everyone arrived. My sister and her husband were there, also a colleague from work, Greg was there…and also a cat.

On my way to work, I listened to Yuri Shevchuk’s solo album that he recorded in Paris, called “L’Echoppe”.  I thought about how neat it would be to learn to play accordion. Also, about a duet song I want to record with a friend of mine who lives in New York and studies opera. I thought about autumn and winter in Russia, about Moscow and about that unsettling, ever-present sadness which trails after me like a pathetic (in the Greek sense of the word), miserable dog. I realized that the only thing that separates people that I consider “deep”, from those that are not so much is that underlying current of sorrow. As many wise men said, the more knowledge, the more grief. This I thought on my way to work.

And I do wonder, how it was that I did the waking and the feeding of progeny, the teeth-brushing and driving, and even the teacher-talking and child-instructing, while so much of me was not “in the present”. Rather, fluttering around it like a moth bobbing up and down on the heat waves of a candle. Maybe there’s nothing special about it…maybe that how everyone is.

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