The Tao

summer rewinds the clock
evenings that were dark
are now brimming with color and a warm breeze

from below the borders of the bay
a light echoes off a white crescent moon
and silhouettes the Ts of telephone poles

gazing past the angled shadows
tonight's pastel skies melt into eye-watering blue
revisiting a sight seen by eyes coming on five-years-old

the heat is the same
Dad and I roaming a pair of rusty railroad tracks
trees thick on one side
a wall of reeds betraying a hidden pond on the other

a sharp crack down the tracks sends a signal ringing
buzzing down the rails
the thin vibration fading in the distance
pieces of shattered shale skitter

Dad examines the shards of the throw
searching happily for something
he does not truly expect to find

small hands lift a fat rock
no different from the others stretching on to either side
a rambling bed for the dormant line

I heave the stone at the track
with all my meager might may muster
and the red and pitted iron does the work


smiling at the spark and smoke of the impact
I shamble to the broken bits and look eagerly
nothing, still

the afternoon winds on like a still frame
and us within it
laughing and moving along the way like happy snails

we are fossil hunters

we are hunting the trilobite

only I have no idea what a trilobite looks like
but Dad will know if I bring him one

he has never found one before
but a silly and hopeful four year old
is prepared to hunt until that changes

now and then we find a real big one
a petrified piece of ancient mud
full of forgotten plants and critter shells

Dad found most of them
showing me each one
and my joy was mingled with some envy

as the heat wore on and my morale waned
my throws were fueled more by frustration
than ambition


and the pieces scattered again
some tumbling down the shallow slope of debris
I have no idea how I managed to track them all down

but bringing this unique collection to my father
my enthusiasm replaced by a simple wish
that this could be what he was looking for

"Is this a Trilobite?"

his joy was an unstoppable force
rocking over my exhausted indifference
like a storm wave tossing a ship at sea

I don't remember his words
I remember his smile
his electrical excitement

his pride in me
his happiness
I always seem to remember his happiness

It was, indeed

I have kept this symbol of wonder
magically broken to reveal its head
for my entire life

back then it was simply something really
really cool
for show and tell

and as time went forward
the Sunday schooler
became a fanatic
became a dissident empiricist
became a bewildered and conceding observer of the mysterious

Dad and I went back to that old town of my youth
back to the railroad tracks
myself now past my twentieth annum

we talked much of nothing and everything
as mystics tend to do
in their natural elements

we talked of the treasured day
that trilobite was found
how crazy and perfect it all was

I half-seriously suggested we might find another
and quickly followed with the admiration
that it was a once in a lifetime find

I had mine
but it seemed unfair that his 'once' remained a never
and I told him, "Maybe it's your turn to find one"

I had given up my search
was practicing my balancing act along the darkening rail
when from behind me the persistent fossil hunter spoke

"Bri, you aren't going to believe this"
I could see his face before I turned around
I knew what he would hold in his hand

Once again his excitement exceeded mine
but apathy did not mute my happiness
fifteen years had taught me to expect the surreal

He told me he didn't even have to break the rock
it was just laying there in front of him
how crazy and perfect it all was

the mystery spoke to each of us that day
the simple and the profound in unity
yin and yang

welcome home
you know me now
and you I have known

as my sandaled feet return to the present
and the colors shift back to seashell shades
the knowing doesn't change the wonder of it all

I am incredibly lucky
and my abysmal scores in yahtzee
seem to balance out the fact

that my life has been part control
and part something else entirely
everything just seems to go my way

a step cannot be guided unless a step is taken
but where my feet have lead me
I regard more as a gift than a result

if volition is the yin
and mystery the yang
the outcome is simply profound