n his excitement Wild Apple's
wrist had tilted a little too much to one side and the cup balanced on his right
palm slid. Naturally, between jumping away from the splash and trying to catch
the cup before it fell to the ground, he had completely forgotten about the
other cup and casually planted it straight into Grass's face, who, in turn, lost
his balance and stumbled backwards, both cups flying from his hands, and knocked
into another boy, whose neighbour successfully side-stepped the combined weight
of the two, by shouldering into Pebble from behind.
There was chaos on the stone dais. Twelve children screaming their lungs out,
cups of brownie poo flying left, right and centre, some of the boys losing
control of their own cups while attempting to dodge someone else's.
But, almost an hour ago, somewhere I think between the sixth and seventh rounds,
I had entered Flow. Even before Grass fell, I felt my waist turn to the right,
whipping the elbow across so that I caught the cup flying from his left hand on
top of the cup in my right palm, nailsbreadth above Seed's ear. Instinctively,
the weight of my body shifted to my left foot to free the right leg so that the
momentum from my waist could carry it to the right and then behind. Heel touches
the ground first, rolling the rest of the foot down; as the weight shifts again,
the left leg turns to follow the motion. My left palm comes down in an arc and
extends to catch Grass's other cup before it can strike Cloud's face, again cup
on cup. The feet rotate, turning the waist and the motion flows through my body.
Weaving between Ker and Pebble, then twisting the other side, stepping around
Cloud, and surging through the gap between three boys, I appear to have caught
five more cups: two on my right, along the forearm; one on the left, pressed
into the crook of the elbow; and one on each shoulder.
Olfactory disaster averted, I stood with nine cups balanced precariously on and
around my own two cups. Of the nine cups that went flying, I had caught seven,
and the other two, the first casualties of the day, courtesy of Wild Apple's
lapse in mindfulness, now hung suspended in the air.
I sensed the Flow begin to ebb. I did not have long now.
"Seed, if you would. The jug." I sounded calmer then I felt. Visions of the near
future dangled over me like a death sentence. I don't think there would be
enough soap in the world.
Seed was having some trouble with the lid. "Winter, it's stuck!" A single bead
of sweat rolled down the underside of my left arm, pooled in a tiny alcove
between cup and elbow, and glistened playfully along its edge. One White
Mountain, Two White Mountain, Three White Mou - Finally, the lid came off with a
damp pop. I guided the Flow and nine streams of brownish liquid swirled into the
clay jug with a sloshing finality.
"A little help please. The cups," I said. Children can be awfully forgetful
sometimes. "Thank you."
A hundred and twenty grubby little fingers scrambled towards me all at once. "Oh
no no no no no, only those among you who are still clean..." This thinned the
number of a volunteers a bit. Three boys cautiously removed the empty cups from
my body. The two cups that were previously in the air fell on Wild Apple's head.
Unintentionally, I think. (The Flow is a wild thing and can be difficult to
I would like to take a moment to describe how impossible it is to talk to Grass
sometimes. I think the root of the problem lies in the fact that Grass is more
interested in the precise meaning of the words, whereas I, on the whole, am more
interested in getting him washed up. After our adventure with brownie poo, I
took the children to the nearest river and told them to undress, throw
everything in, and not emerge until the stench became bearable and there
remained no danger of accidentally killing those denizens of the forest with the
more sensitive noses should they happen to cross our path. One of the great
things about meditating on the breath is that after years of practice it
eventually lengthens, so that you can say an awful lot of things in one breath.
"All of my clothes?" Grass asked.
"My shoes, too?"
"Well, no, not your shoes."
"All right, but I'll put in the belt."
"If you must," I said. Sometimes it is best to just let it go.
The diligent scrubbing had soon degenerated into a game. The children were now
running around in the water and trying to whack one another on the head with wet
cloth. And screaming. How can so much noise come from such small bodies? This is
one of the great mysteries of life.
I closed my eyes, went to a happy (and above all, quiet) place and took refuge
in the silence. Only two more exercises to go: Sinking in Prayer Position and
Stand Like a Tree.
I hoped the healers were faring better than I was.