The dharma teacher’s wife is leaving him after forty-nine years of marriage. I think of him as you and I lay under the trees, away from the rest of the group. You ask me to identify birds. Acorn woodpecker. Rock pigeon. Red-tailed hawk. But you knew that one. My parents celebrate fifty years this month. I prefer the company of people who aren’t afraid to admit they don’t know a crow from a raven. Not knowing is most intimate. Not once has anyone at this party asked me what I do. I was prepared to answer honestly. “I hear animals calling through my body in the middle of the night,” and ponder how long they will keep talking to me. How long did his wife wish to leave? Oriole. They make these elaborate basket nests. I google a picture to show you. You drift off into the screen. Was it sudden? I am glad he is a Zen master. Preparation for this unfathomable fall into the intimate unknown. Life without his companion. That’s a raven, not a crow. The ground, a grassy little teeter-totter.
Ilana Gustafson resides in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest on the ancestral lands of the Tongva, just outside of Los Angeles. She is a theater artist in the form of writer, mask performer, clown, actor, director. She practices zen meditation and spends lots of time alone in the wilderness, hiking and backpacking.