Thursday, December 28, 2006

Pure existence -- December 21, 2006

We were walking back from the market, from a round of shopping for our Ngorongoro and Serengeti safari. (When I say 'we,' some of the people have changed.) We are in a lovely town called Karatu which is in the rift valley of northern Tanzania (not Kenya), near Lake Manyara.

It had been raining cats and dogs, and we were walking, at times slip-sliding, through thick mud. This is the season of the short rains, and there is a monsoon off the coast that is bringing relentless rain.

We were talking, laughing, chattering, enjoying. One woman from the guesthouse who accompanied us to the local, outdoor market (disheveled series of sheds where local produce, grains and other staples are sold) took a particular liking to me and me to her, and I appreciate the sisterhood and affection between women here (all the more important because contact beyond cordiality toward men is misinterpreted).

We 4 walked past a T-intersection of the dirt road toward the market where it is bisected by the tarmac road. The interection had a high, bumpy incline and everything was treacherously slippery.

An overloaded, top heavy truck took the turn from the tarmac onto the dirt too fast. The truck teetered onto its two side wheels, leaning precipitously towards us. All of us ran, save one. We then saw the truck poised to smash and kill our companion, our friend.

I felt an empty stillness and no fear, no emotions in the moment. I was an observer. I was blank.

A moment later, the truck teetered away from him landing squarely on its 4 wheels. Our friend was safe.

Another moment later, my heart started to pound madly, pushing and lurching its way into my throat.

I think the feeling in the moment of death must be stillness. Emotions are of the living experience, something separate and distinct from pure existence.

Afterward, while everyone else was quickly light, I cried. I cried for the way life comes and goes, without thinking, without knowing. I cried for the moment that could have devastated lives and taken from amongst us a warm-hearted, high-spirited, bright-eyed adventurer of life.

I think about my father, and that his experience in the moment of death was perhaps not suffering nor agony but stillness.

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