Today, I want to both wish myself a happy birthday and thank many of you for your kind wishes.
Like the kid’s game of hopscotch–that dates back to many centuries before the current era in India–I have tapped a toe into all eight of the decade-squares in the French La Marelle version of the game, between la terre, or earth, and le ciel, sky or heaven, having successfully tossed my callou or pebble into a square and then bent over to snatch it back up, before falling down or faulting.
Surely, there is a useful metaphor here, some poetry to ground me as I complete my seventy-first year. One more square to go before I kiss the sky.
Hopping squares from the time of the rabid McCarthy to the ignominious Trump, I am left empty-handed, wondering what’s been accomplished, having fumbled my pebble and gotten turned about, tapping my way back down to la terre.
Is there le ciel? Is there a heaven?
I no longer care.
Ikkyu said, “Having no destination I am never lost.”
A happy idiot, I am fulfilled, skipping onto one square, then another, up and down, randomly landing outside the lines, dropping my stone on my toe, tripping and falling, between earth and sky, loving ‘til bloody, loathing evil, weeping and laughing like a fool.
Once a sprite, then a six-foot leprechaun, forty-three years a daddy, now an old man, singing while I sort the recycling, putting the clean chopsticks back in the chopstick drawer, all the fat ends pointing together, ringing the kesu and rin bells and striking the fish-drum during the Shingyo, reaching behind me in the dark for my pillow.
Thank you for your kindness, remembering me as I commemorate my birth date, January 2, 1953, in the southeastern desert of Washington state, in Oppenheimer’s shadow.
Let’s keep going together, tip-toeing between squares, reaching for the sky, putting the chopsticks in their place, very gently, just so.
-Geoff Shōun O’Keeffe