Swamp Zen

Aside

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Messy, isn’t it? I could place a serene image here but those images are not talking to me right now. This the image that is talking to me. Here’s why:

I’ll start by telling you that I took this photo of my husband’s (Charlie) mud caked legs just after he completed a long and wild ultra race through a rain soaked forest in upstate NY. I remember sitting on a grassy area near the finish line cheering the runners in and thinking that they looked like stoned swamp zombies due to their gazed eyes, slow motion movements and their muted green/gray mud caked skin.

Being the neat freak that I am I thought: ” Glad I have that roll of paper towels in the car.” But as I watched runner after runner find the strength to pull their exhausted spines straight as they crossed the finish line, my thoughts went from ” Glad that’s not me” to “Whoa, this is a testament to human tenacity!”

Charlie sat down at the finish area with the other runners, ate some food, drank some juice and proceeded to slowly clean the mud that covered him from head to toe. Literally. He had mud on his nose, cheeks, hair and in his ears. I watched him. I was more silent that usual ( I usually have a barrage of  questions after he finishes these wild, long races)- I was uncharacteristically quiet because I was taking in his nonchalant, deliberate post run clean up actions. Here’s what I was thinking:

This man, unbeknownst to him, is a kind of unlikely Zen master. Whether running or working at his exacting and demanding job, he unceremoniously places one foot in front of the other without a whole lot of drama or commentary. He knowingly places himself into situations where he moves through unpredictable territory and arrives at an end point with an achy, dehydrated, sweat- soaked, stinky, mosquito bitten body. I’m also thinking of the Zen expression “chop wood, carry water” and I’m thinking that his creed (were he to have one which he would not) might be something like: “chop ego, carry body– carry body deep into the forest and see what happens.”

So, there we are at the finish area where the racers and their support crew are schmoozing and getting the race results. I continue to observe Charlie quietly clean his knee brace and move on to wiping down his legs; and now I’m thinking this:

The coolest people I’ve met have no clue that they are cool- which makes them even cooler. Sometimes masters have no clue that they are masters. They have no interest in calling any attention to themselves. They simply do what they do with their full attention, clean up the messes they make and move on to the next moment- muddy legs and all.

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