so i live on a tiny island here in hong kong--i know, yes, i am supposed to be writing a book. i wrote three sentences today, i ll have you know. the first of three being, "god, this is really daunting." anyway, i live on an island, one of several that make up hong kong, and we have a little beach. the beach is roped off for swimming, but with all the ginormous cargo ships that go by all day long i see it as the equivalent of swimming in the baltimore harbor, or insert your own nasty body of water.
people do actually swim at this beach, everyday some of them, and i always expect them to surface with a murky film blanketing their body. they don't somehow, but i look for it just in case everytime. my point is, that to some people, this is a real beach. they even have lifeguards! who take themselves seriously i might add, at 6pm sharp they must push a button because conveniently the loudspeaker interrupts with a blaring squeaky voice, i picture a chinese chatty cathy doll, first in cantonese, then in mandarin, and lastly a different female voice altogether, british, a lot less whiny, "may i have your attention please, the lifeguard service for this beach has ended. thank you for coming." it's very official.
i see the swimmers when i go to the beach to meditate. some still crawling along when i leave, in the dark of the night. i meditate for at least a half hour everyday. i prefer the beach because it's fairly easy to get comfortable, you have the undulating tide, the breeze, the birds, and when i open my eyes, most often, the sun has gone down and the two long bridges before me are lit up like a grand ol' gay pride parade.
this evening i went to the beach a little earlier than usual. my goal is always to sit for 30 minutes although i never set a timer or anything, give or take a few minutes on either end. i dragged my foot to scooch some sand into a small pile and then placed my winnie the pooh beach towel on top, like always, and got myself situated. it was warmer than usual and there wasn't much of a breeze, but it was 5:08 pm and i guess that was to be expected. when i sat down and closed my eyes i realized that both of those conditions combined must have welcomed the flies.
i gave it a minute to see if they were the biting kind or just the really effin annoying kind--turned out the latter. my eyes were closed, i had already committed. plus, i've been reading this book the blue sweater which is a memoir about non-profit organizations serving africa, india, and pakistan. so as i sat there thinking about how annoying these stupid flies were, i pictured the faces of those children i've seen in the media with flies at their eyes or their mouths and i imagined that nuisances like flies are likely the least of their worries. i know it's dramatic, but that's what i thought. and for them, i didn't budge.
some of the flies pittered and pattered like little ballerinas, where others clodhopped their way across the surface of my skin. some crawled in and out of my hands, while others came and went as they pleased. thankfully they stayed on my arms and my legs, one on my face would have been a total dealbreaker. i thought about how filthy they are and remembered that a boy, a gross boy at that, in elementary school told me that they throw up or shit on you every time they land. or was it that they lay eggs. either way, i was devastated.
i brought myself back to the moment, right, the moment. they must be here for a reason, with me, like this, all up in my grill. my teachers maybe, i entertained that. i'd already had enough teaching moments for the day, with a coconut, and some unassembled ikea furniture that never made it to my door, everyone's a frickin' teacher!
i wanted to douse myself with hand sanitizer, but tried to work with it--deal. there was a breeze, yes! a breeze. see, gratitude in the smallest things. when i let go, the flies seemed to bother me less, or my legs had fallen asleep, either way it was nice. while sitting and worrying so much about the flies i realized my back didn't hurt. there's a bonus, my back always hurts. well, i guess, not when you have a swarm of flies to take your mind off of it! which would you rather? see how my mind just eff's with me? as a kid, i would go to my brother for sympathy, "dan, i hurt my arm." he would punch me in the gut, "now it doesn't." same, same.
i imagined people walking passed me wondering if i was the fly lady or something, feeding them willingly, like the pigeon lady in the park who has no friends. god, i hope not. i mean, she seems nice and all, but that's nasty. i wondered what the flies were so obsessed with anyway, i mean is their sole purpose in life to be pests? teacher pests? my vipassana meditation "craving and aversion" lessons kept floating to the forefront of my mind.
so much for silent mind. another breeze, thank the lord, freedom. then a bold bugger flitted right up to my face, dealbreaker, that's it, total dealbreaker, but somehow i didn't move. ok, next time, i swear if one of you touches my face. there he goes again, that little bastard. still i didn't move.
somehow i finally got quiet. i finally listened to my breath and settled down. i sat in a space of peace for a few minutes, time having little value. i noticed the flies seemed to dissipate. i wondered if my half hour was up. i smiled at the warmth that always accompanies the peace. should i end before they come back, or wait till...? all warm and fuzzy i thought, we are all god's creatures, i guess. with that they came back. i clasped my hands in prayer like i always do, gave thanks, opened my eyes to a setting sun, looked at my watch, 5:38pm. i made it, damnit--for the children.