Sansaku: Swing Like You Have No Fear

from a series of posts by Colin on Best Slowly. Each posting is a walk, a sansaku, about 500 words long


I’ve known for a long time that the work is most productive when the conditions are the hardest, provided you remember what you’re working on.   And if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. I’m not as happy when I play it safe, but neither do I suffer.

I let it all hang out yesterday and now I’m feeling a bit fried from the over-exposure.  Even my dreams let me know.  What are you doing?  Do you know what this looks like?

I tell stories because they are easy for me to remember, and the generalized abstractions are not.   And I remember stories with emotional edges the best, especially when the hero went for broke and lost it.   “Then what happened?”

I must have felt safe yesterday, because I headed straight for the unsafe waters.   I was surfing a riptide of dangerous emotion and kept close to the breaking point for an excruciatingly long time.

Wendell’s ceremony of life was better than I’d expected, and I’d expected a great deal.

I loved the way his daughter-in-law opened the ceremony.   “Witness the passage of a great man and a life well lived.”

She wanted to tell a story, but her voice broke.   We were all listening to her as one.   “When I picked up his ashes, the man at the mortuary said he must have been very young.   I asked him why.   He explained that the ashes of the old are light, and these are really heavy.”   She added, “Wendell would want all of you to know this.”

When it came my time to speak, I knew I was going to be outrageously vulnerable, and that’s a recipe for shame.   But I could only see a few of the faces in the huge crowd.   Because they belonged to the people I love and who know me, I wasn’t afraid to reveal.

Wendell always told me, swing like you have no fear.

There’s a scene in the golf movie, “Tincup,” where the hero is being a complete and utter fool.   His girlfriend yells, “Just go for it, Roy.”   His ex says, “Don’t encourage him.” But she says, “I’ve never had a man who went for it.”   The ex says, “Then he’s your guy.”

From the start of my talk, and I knew even with a microphone my voice would be too soft for those in the back of the lodge to hear, the display of emotion would not.   I could barely speak at times.   I felt little need to apologize.

Just before I spoke, I remembered two sayings about the ocean, and thought of Wendell.   “No matter where you go, the taste’s the same.”   And this one, “The ocean will give you as much as you can carry.”

We never know just how the story of our life will end.   And while he died unexpectedly, he went true to character.   I said to the gathering I had written some sketches.

I was already over my head and caught in the riptide, when I said I’d start with a sketch called “Transubstantiation.”   Wendell was no Christ and wouldn’t have said, “Remember me when you eat and drink.”

But I didn’t back down.   I could feel his sly smile, that Cheshire grin, as I took off all of my clothes and defenses.   Finally, naked and feeling quite small, I just stopped talking.   I’d said too much and not enough.

Chyako told me, “By the end of the talk your voice was so soft it had almost disappeared.” I said, “I’d gone inside and couldn’t come out.”   I had no idea of what that must have looked like.   I’m sure I scandalized a few, but most of the others came with me.




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