the lion and the stilts



When I was a child I found awe and inspiration in English manor houses, castles, Kings, Queens and Dukes.  I would day-dream about their power and money, their influence and dignity, their sparkling lives and richly appointed four-poster beds and emblazoned stationary.  And then I began to grow some.

Later on, I found awe and inspiration in the English church.  I would day-dream about power and vestments, standing at an altar, being feared and sounding like I could explain the cosmos.  One day, on TV, I saw the Queen of England stand in her simple dress and hat in front of a Bishop with his amethysts and gold, brocade and ring, recently kissed by an obsequious priest.  And suddenly, the little, wounded, insecure child in me which wanted to be a Duke awoke from its slumber and wanted to be a Priest and even a Bishop in a Bishop’s Palace with Archdeacons on the drawbridge with spears in the shape of pens and a mote jagged candlesticks.

I am so grateful that that insecure, wounded child did not see a terrorist movie or a 007 movie as a small child, lest I would have had this same bell run a third time by the tiny tyrant deep inside me.  I am a good and gifted man, but every moment I need to decide if I am going to use my gifts for good or for self-preservation, self-promotion or self-aggrandizement.  I wish that were not so. But it is so, for I am a human.

So now, after a near-death experience, I am asking myself who I am, today, without the protection of a forest-circled farm or enough evidence to beat back evil.  Who I was before being hit by a train; before having my skull broken into three equal pieces by its windshield; before five days in ICU seems less important to me now; as does being a Duke or a Bishop or even a witness.

Now I want to be this bee, whose picture I took while on a walk with my sister.  I want to often pollinate and only occasionally sting in self-defense. I want to be part of the army of insects without which our planet would be lifeless in four years.  I want less to look important, finding images of power into which I can slip like a ballerina in a suit of armor and more like s small bee, virtually unseen by passers by, and yet- as part of many – able to drive off a honey-loving bear by our sheer numbers and tiny defense mechanisms.

One of my mentors tells me that he has lived for years walking on earth like a small man on massive stilts.  It made him feel tall, but the insecurity of the tall stilts was rickety, frightening and ungainly. These days, he says, he would like to walk on the earth like a lion- gentle, strong, one massive padded paw on the grown after the other, walking low, a tan animal in tan grasses; sure of every step.

There was a time in which my longings were in icons.  Now they are in fields.

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