On the last night, my son stood watch over the good dog Beamer who was in undisclosed pain and couldn’t bear to be alone. I couldn’t sleep either, so I lay in bed and listened to Peter labor with our old darling - who wanted out. Eighty pounds limp in his arms, Pete went down the stairs and out to the yard. Then Beamer wanted in and so he was carried: up and down, up and down. It was mostly rustling sounds.
I thought about the word itself: rustle. How it feels weathered and intimate. After a time, I reached in the dark for the phone to google, which is a form of prayer.To rustle means to steal, usually at night, a sheep or a cow. Also, it indicates a series of small, papery sounds.
At dawn, I felt a hand on my foot. That's how Peter finds me when he needs something at night. “I don’t know what else to do,” he whispered. Now these are the words that awaken and summon me. They break the spell that otherwise keeps me dreamy and apart.
My school is the School of Not-Knowing. I'm a professor there, with tenure. Predicament is my highest art. When I’m around people who know the way, who’ve got the answer, who remember how it’s done, I lose all confidence and coordination. No, I find my stride only in the land of Not Knowing. “I’ve got this,” I told him with no clue. Out of bed I crawled to join my boy and his dog on the linoleum.
“Ahhh,” I said. That’s the best way to begin. Ahhh. It opens the throat, as in the doctor’s office. In this case, however, it signaled to the gods that I was empty and in want of inspiration. “Ahhh,” I said again, “Well. There was a rabbit. In a field. And high above. Was the moon. The great big moon. Great big field. Little rabbit.” I knew it would come…not an idea, not wisdom, but rhythm, sound itself, the old medicine. Da da dum. Da da dum. Was a rabbit. In a field. Struggle rest. Struggle rest.
A teacher’s teacher once said, “I don’t believe in God. I believe in going up and down the scales.” That man is practiced and divine. I am not divine but I am practiced. And when I call I do trust the sounds to come.
So next to me, the old dog twitched and sighed. His back pressed against my chest; one paw was on Peter. They slept. And in the field, the great big field, the rabbit did almost nothing. Nor did the moon have much to say beyond light.