Each day I diligently return to the pond with the hope of finding solace. The water is cooling; a relief. I plunge, let the waves wash or the tranquil pool lie still around me. For now, it calms the monkey in my mind.
September is sadness. I woke on 9/1 remembering 9/11. The first anniversary of Jesi passing away approaches too fast. I’ve struggled, my head bobbing above water and alternatively feeling like I am drowning through this first year. I’m not sure I can do it all again, and again, and again: the thought comes to me at odd times.
It is of course necessary. For all the years I swim, for all the years I live it will be necessary.
I am adamant I will silence these thoughts so I come to Walden. I bring my imperfect meditation practice into the pond with me. Buddha I chant into the first stroke, seeing in my mind the stone figure I wake up to each morning. Buddha, buddha, buddha, repeating the simple mantra to keep my mind on track as my body, relieved of its weight slowly edges forward. How long can I keep the focus on the word, on the image as I set out across the pond? How many times have I attempted this before? And failed. With each stroke another narrative weaves itself through my head. How long, how long, how long.
The Buddha fades. Replaced by to-do lists and every day anxieties and meaningless thoughts and aggravations. For a long time I do not even notice it has faded, so insipid are these intrusions, siding their way into my mind.
I am rounding the curve at the far end of the pond when it comes to me, out of no where that I can establish, except the morass of twisted thoughts inside my head. There, in the eye of my mind I see an alabaster Buddha with a single jewel on its headdress. The vision startles me. I do not remember seeing such a Buddha, not in time I can recall. How is it appearing to me now? And beside the Buddha, Durga, the Hindu deity of universal motherhood, as clear as if I had meditated to her yesterday (when in fact I have not for years.) The visions are so vivid they stay with me as I swim along the far edge of the pond and it is only as I head for the main beach that my focus becomes hazy.
When I am back on the beach looking across the pond I marvel about the magic Walden bestows on me. Somewhere between the leaving and the returning the sadness has lifted. I recall the words of a shamanic healer I consulted months ago when I was trying to piece together the meaning of losing Jesi. “Jesi will always be with you,” she told me. “In a previous lifetime she was your mother just as you were hers in this lifetime.” I wonder now whether the vision of Durga is Jesi’s way of telling me she is with me through the anniversary of losing her, not as my mother but as the mother goddess of the universe, comforting me as I navigate my way across the pond.