When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
I didn’t so much listen to the old sage as wait for my chance to say something that he might agree with. I mean, how could I know I was right, if I didn’t get some kind of confirmation?
It’s no wonder that vast wisdom is usually packaged with great patience.
How many times did I interrupt the generous flow of invaluable information to say what I thought the guru was going to tell me? Five? Ten? How many times had I assumed correctly? I’ll never know.
Eventually, I watched green corneas flit to the corners of his eyes. A wise man’s sign of changing gears.
“When a student is ready, they will listen. Later they can process. Processing takes time, experience to solidify what they once may have heard,” he said softly with a sigh, and then a brief chuckle.
It was quite a unique way to marry a verbal lesson to its experiential counter part. Masterful, really. He was going to clam up if I didn’t shut up; an expensive lesson in itself and the most important one I ever learned.
Maybe it was the first, actually.
I had been pecking the keys every few seconds like a chicken, glancing over at the article a journalist had written about her travels in Iceland. It was about things she had learned as a travel writer.
What a life, eh? Who has money for that?
Though I wasn’t on the seaside cliffs of Iceland, at least the smog from the interstate wasn’t wafting in as far as my picnic table at a rest area off of I-75.
I let the mildly irritating thought pass on the wind.
She was however published in National Geographic, so something about her writing did pay. And, I must admit, it was good.
It was good because I enjoyed the things she gleaned from her trip through her reflecting on them. Kinda like I was learning while she was deciding what her trip meant to her and I was starting to think that she had written the piece after she had returned stateside.
When I finished writing my article, it would turn out to be the best piece of work I had ever published.
The drive was sobering.
All those red and white lights, sometimes making little zigzags like fireflies when the pavement suddenly became uneven in construction zones.
I was thinking of how still it had been back in the cave.
The laptop was tucked away in the backseat, full of the entire account of my experience two weeks earlier. The article was good.
It was good for the same reasons hers was. As I had pecked out the magical events there in the dark, I had really solidified my lessons, and I was sure the reader would feel that.
Why did people invest money to travel for their writing?
I guess you could Google Earth an entire vacation and write about the things you see, but unless you get engaged with a place, with the people, you’re not listening. Experience makes it genuine.
I hated holding up the cellphone and playing videographer at my daughter’s recital, but my wife always did it, so this time it was only fair.
“This is horrible footage,” my wife said, flicking through the photos and videos on our return trip home.
“Well, I figured if I was bad enough, I wouldn’t have to do it again,” I said sarcastically.
I could see she wasn’t amused with my lack of interest.
“Sorry, Honey,” I dared, glancing at the rear view.
In the back seat my daughter was doing little circles in the air with her magic wand, humming, smiling. I nodded her way to draw my wife’s attention to her happiness.
“That’s the real reason,” I said, “I just want to feel something when I watch, and it’s impossible when I’m worried about how shaky my footage is.”
She smiled warmly and went back to flipping.
My favorite oak tree, in the parking lot of my day job, is about two-hundred years old. I figured it out by measuring the circumference and dividing by Pi, then multiplying by its growth factor.
Leaning against it, after another unsuccessful attempt to communicate with my mentor, I asked myself a question in his stead.
What have you learned?
It was a fitting question. One I could imagine Merlyn asking young King Arthur at the end of a valuable lesson.
COVID botched our previous appointment after the Druid had asked me how much spiritual work I had actually done in my life.
Nearing my forties, and over the last twenty years, the answer was disheartening. Reading, studying, philosophizing? Yes. But physical work… zilch.
When your teen years are chocked full of reading material like Siddhartha and Sophie’s World, you tend to migrate toward truth wherever you can find it. Knowing that the true answer was not going to satisfy his inquiry, I chose to take advantage of the rain-check caused by COVID.
But standing there, looking up through the great oak leaves at the moon, I wondered… Would my answer to his next question be yet another disappointment?
“Disciplining our children isn’t fun… well, not always,” says Pasteur Mike.
He takes a few wide strides across the stage while the audience relates in laughter.
“We’re required to carve pathways for them to make connections on what works and what doesn’t,” he pauses, then puts the mic back on the stand and gets more serious.
“No parent wants their kids making the same mistakes again and again. We have to be sure they learn. But we should learn, too. Too often do we ask ourselves why the same things keep happening to us,” The preacher leans back in agony, “Why are you doing this to me again, God?”
“But it’s not God.”
I totally agreed.
What? You don’t think a Druid might attend church on Sunday? What can I say? I married Guinevere and we have four kids.
At least this is exposure to religion, as I’ve not convinced my wife to let me tote them too far into the woods quite yet.
My wife is in rapture. She always is when Mike is preaching.
“The thing is, life doesn’t work unless you take the time to reflect on it,” he says.
I was then thinking of my wife telling my four-year-old that he needs to sit there on his bed and think about what he’d done…
“It’s not enough to know that you liked playing soccer as a kid. You need to really sit down and ask yourself what you liked so much about it. Was it the competition, the camaraderie? You have to evaluate these pieces of life; the good and the bad. So that you grow.”
I thought of the articles I had published about my Druidic experiences.
“What is life trying to tell you?”
I was in the midst of a lesson and would write about it later.
To my wife’s surprise, I gave a breathy chuckle and reminded myself of that old sage, so long ago.
Perhaps, I had learned something after all.
Jay Horne is an author and publisher out of Bradenton, Florida. He is a husband and father of four.
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