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  • Myself when I am real. When I was younger this would often be in the future tense. When I will be real, when I will become real, when I will become what I think I will be, or best become. It was a searching, a sense that the foundation was not there, the motion to my own self, constant.

    Myself when I was real came in moments alone, and even then only after a long time of sorting out and discarding the sense that someone else was watching, disapproving, judging, deciding, determining. Myself when I was real came when I began forgetting that, the others, when I began to stop worrying about how I appeared to others, and thought, instead, of me, is, being, of the place around me, of the moment.

    So those moments when I was myself most real still burn strong, the moment when I felt my grandfather, just dead, was all around me, in a sunny glen in the middle of the woods as I lay, fallen from my bicycle, ridden there in a frenzy at the news, bumped off by an unseen stump, to stop me, like that, to see what was around me, a deer, the sound of a hawk, the sun, the green, and this overwhelming reassurance of my grandfather’s voice not heard but felt that everything was alright that he was there.
  • I remember, too, other moments – my doctor raising me to the sky to congratulate me that I had run, without falling, across the lawn and his warm admonition to never stop trying, never stop trying. A moment seared by his death the next day in a plane crash. The moment of running, of succeeding, of nearly tripping, but not, of seeing his smile as I grew near on the run back.

    Moments when I forgot, who I was, where I was, yet intensely aware of everything and everyone around me, of the temperature and the air and the time of day and the sounds and the feeling in my legs or arms or head. Those moments of intensity so surprising, so unexpected, driven on by an emotion and intensity that pushed through all the demons, small and large, that often surround me, us I suppose, as we sort through our present, often confused by the past and worried of the future.
    I am most real when I am away, when I am away from what absorbs me – the future – and am instead in the present and time slows to a crawl.

    Moments: Pulling a dead man from the canal … Flying mid-air in a man’s homebuilt car and hearing him cackle as he gazed at my terrified face … Coming around a corner in a deep, long, painful portage and nearly running into a lone caribou, he as surprised as me. … Casting a line into the top of a rapid and feeling the fierce tug, immediate, of a giant salmon that leapt into the air and flopped back down pulling my line as if a whale, almost spilling me, head first, out of the canoe. …. Seeing a large brown bear just 20 feet away, above me on the gigantic riverbank, so close that I could hear him breathing, so close that I could smell his breath, so close that I was frozen until, at last, I realized that he did not know what I was, did not know because he had never seen a human being this far into the Arctic, and so I felt my fear give way to comfort, to knowledge, to an understanding that I was safe.

    I was safe.

    Photo by Cecilia Giordano who wondered when I was going to get around to shearing my beard.
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