the Iranian

by tobias crabtree

Writing is a trip. What we experience becomes a memory, then what really happened changes a little, maybe more. Even the stuff that is going on right now will change as I remember it. Like, it’ll be different tomorrow, then it’ll be different again in 1 year, and again in 10. So really, the only time everything is exactly as it is is right now…after that it’s a shit show. I do my best to recall and not exaggerate, especially where my feelings are involved, but I seem to always change something. Some little thing left behind. Something added. Truth is, if I was held to some strict standard, I’m a liar.

With that out of the way, I feel a little better. Life rolls by like a river and all the things that pass are fleeting; every love, every loss, every wish, every dayhourminutesecond. The biggest trip is that I know I’ll die and that’s just so unacceptable as of now. I mean, I have so many more things to look at. There are thousands of letters I haven’t written. Babies I’ve not held. Waves I’ve not surfed. Lovely words I’ve not told my Mom. Races I’ve not run. Hidden spots I’ve not found. There is a fairness I’m being held to that I will always try to dodge: this whole death thing really cramps my style. It’s super difficult to be cool from the strict confines of the grave. For one thing, if someone talks shit about me, I can’t defend myself. I gotta just lie there all gray and cold with my mouth wired shut in some outfit that the coroner picked out for me–maybe he even thought it matched my eyes.

I guess I’m gonna talk about a time in NYC when Davey Kenneally took me to a sangha in Brooklyn. I think I’d been to one of these things before, but I ain’t sure. This one had a couple of monks visiting from Thic Nhat Hanh’s monastery in upstate New York. Both these dudes were cool and I could see it in ’em right away. They were genuine. Not fake genuine, but real genuine. I watched one of these fellas stand in the doorway of the room, waiting to enter. I was new to this whole thing and I was watching him ’cause he was super interesting. His smile was easy and real. He was intently looking into the room and as I watched him I began to have a hypothesis about what he was doing. I felt like he was waiting to gain eye contact with every person already in the room. I watched. Eventually he looked at me where I sat like a regular dude in the room, but he looked at me and beamed out a smile that was really pretty cool. Whether he was doing what I thought he was doing doesn’t matter, he was doing something out of the ordinary, and in my eyes, that’s a good thing.

We all sat down and had some chatting and stuff. Soon enough we began a meditation that lasted for about 20 minutes or so. I liked it. We were also told at the beginning that we would be allowed to speak what was on our mind at the finish, if we were so inclined. At the end of the meditation, a couple people said a thing or two, all very brief. Then this fella, an Iranian dude about 60 years old spoke up. He just wanted to tell about a thing that moved him. I’ll write it as best as I remember.

About a year ago, I was up early helping my grand-daughter get ready for school. I live on the 17th floor of an apartment building in the Bronx. On the next apartment building, I saw a hawk sitting in the morning sun and she was so beautiful. I thought to myself, “I wish I could look at you up close, you are so beautiful.” Well, a couple of mornings ago, I was having morning coffee and my grand-daughter was getting ready for school and she said, “Grampa, look on the porch! Look out on the porch!” And there on the porch was the hawk and she was so close and it was incredible. There we were, and the hawk, and she was just as beautiful as before and she was there, in front of us on the porch just a few feet away. It was all so amazing and I am so humbled to be here.

Now I’ll say this. Something broke loose for me during this little story about the hawk on the 17th floor of the Iranian’s apartment. Something inside me started to crack and what came out was salt and water. I ain’t sure about the reason, but I can tell you that while other people sat and smiled, I cried. I cried like the world was coming to an end. Like everything was done and I was done. At some point, I wanted to leave but I wouldn’t be able to do that without crawling, so I stayed. When old Iranian dude was done with the story, I was a mess. I’ve thought about it since, about what it was. The best I got to offer is that I’m a sucker for someone who loves beyond himself/herself. I’m a sucker for the sincerity that comes from believing in the heartbreaking beauty of it all. That stuff that we can’t explain that makes us almost depressed for not having the words. Yeah man, I like the big stuff. The deep stuff.

I’ll never be as sweet as that Iranian dude…or Dave Kenneally who is on his way to being a monk (nice job you sly fox), but I’m down with knocking some teeth out for the things that need protecting. Like the blue blue sky and the polar bears and the whales and the pelicans. The palid swallowtails and the sprouting cedars. The vireos and the tiger salamanders and the pill bugs and the crawdads and the sea urchins and the mayflies and the box turtles. The wild rivers and the moss covered caverns that hold the sturgeons and the sturgeons and the scrawny little mange covered coyotes. The great whites that hunt the likes of me. The scariest of all in the darkest of darks…it all belongs. It all belongs like us. Get it? These are the things that are beautiful, without them we are alone. And alone is a heavy stone.