Thursday, July 19, 2012

All the Same

The other night an old gypsy woman came to me in a dream. I recognized her immediately. She was the woman I shared a bench with thirty four years ago at a train station in Győr, Hungary. In 1978 I didn't do more than nod and mutter a slight greeting at her in Hungarian. I was shy and I didn't want her to think I knew more Hungarian than I did - a common problem. My accent, because I'd grown up with the language, was nearly flawless. My knowledge of the language, however, left huge gaps in any conversation.

But, the other night in my dream was different.

We greeted each other, not as long lost friends, but at least as acquaintances from a similar journey. We sat in a field, a couple hundred yards from that old train station in Győr. She had a beat up old wicker basket from which she pulled a blanket for us to sit on, a loaf of that good, crusty, rustic Hungarian bread that I miss so much, and a bottle (yes, a glass bottle) of fresh milk.

We sat in silence for a few minutes. The scent of sun-warmed hay on the air was almost palpable. It felt like I ought to be able to slice through it with a butter knife and spread it on that beautiful bread. The gypsy woman pulled a hunk of bread off the end of the loaf and passed it to me, then pulled a hunk off for herself before setting the loaf down again. We ate, still in silence, chewing bits of bread that we plucked from the pieces, and passing the bottle of milk back and forth. I remember thinking, meals don't get finer than this.

She turned to me, finally, and asked in a broken mash of Hungarian and English, "You were a girl then, a school girl. What do you do now?"

"I'm an artist and a writer."

"I did not ask what your occupation is. I ask what you do."

Slightly confused, and thinking that she was probably equally confused, I answered, "Well. I make art. And I write."




"And I cook, bake."

With a barely discernible nod, "And."

"Um. And I read. I, uh, love my mate. Well, I love everyone, but him especially. I procrastinate. I laugh. I cry. I care, I worry, I think. I look at clouds and stars and the wind rustling the leaves."

I threw my hands up as if to say, what do you want? "I do a lot of things."

"Yes. All these things you do. All of these are you and you are all of these things. You are greater than the sum of the parts you are made of. And now it is time."

"Time?" I asked.

"Time." She gestured in the direction of the train station. "Time for you to go."


"Where you will."

I stood up, thanked her for the bread and milk. I turned and began to walk toward the train station, then stopped and turned back to her. "Will I see you again before another thirty four years goes by?"

She smiled enigmatically. "One thing more. Breathe in."

I took a deep breath.

"Nuh." She nodded. "Now you have taken tiny pieces of the entire Universe into you. Breathe out."

I let the breath I was holding out with a whoosh.

"Now you have given yourself to the entire Universe. In breathing in and breathing out, we are never apart. No one is apart."

"That sounds Buddhist." I said.

She shrugged. "All the same." And she waved me away with a flick of her hand.

I walked toward the train station. A conductor waited by a doorway to the train. He tipped his hat to me and asked, "Hova mész?" Where are you going?

I smiled at him, gave  him my best gypsy shrug and replied, "Mindegy." All the same.

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