“A light heart lives long.” – William Shakespeare
A man fights many battles in his lifetime, but the only one that really matters is the fight for something you’re afraid to lose. It doesn’t matter much whether it’s a person, thing, or the cherished notions we hold about ourselves. All that really matters is how you handle that fear.
Fear of loss wasn’t something I knew much about. Then again I wasn’t sure I cared about much of anything. My divorce was actually a relief, rather than a loss. Stumbling into an unloving marriage doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s what I settled for. I knew I’d never get hurt.
The job…well I was hurt by John’s betrayal, but the job was also unimportant to me. It was a career I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. I had actually wanted to be a writer, but believed the voices in my head that told me it would lead to failure and poverty. So, I had taken the safe path.
Ch’ing had tried to tell me that settling for second best is never a viable option for an enlightened life. Fear causes us to settle for less than we deserve. It is a darkness of the spirit that reduces us to less than we are…a shadow of our true nature. Settling is a compromise with fear that never works out for the best in the end, because the purpose of life is to express our true nature.
Fear must be faced head-on with the determination to give it our best shot and enough resolve to accept whatever outcome fate holds for us. Ch’ing taught me to remain calm in the face of danger by centering myself in the present. Hours of full contact sparring made it an absolute necessity. He would attack on multiple levels at blistering speed…hands, feet, hips, shoulders, elbows flying everywhere, seemingly, at the same time until the pain of the blows got my full attention.
All of those hours of training fell away from me with sound of Ginny’s plea for help. Before I could answer Ginny, I heard another voice…an icy cold voice. It sent a cold fear down into the pit of my stomach. The voice told me Ginny was as good as dead if I even thought of calling the police. The voice said to wait for further instructions that must be followed without exception or she would die a slow painful death.
For the first time in my life, I felt the crippling terror of losing the most important person in the world to me. I knew I could not lose her, but my knees buckled and I gripped the phone like it was some sort of lifeline. Fear had arrived full force into my life. I had to rescue her, but I was frozen in place by the terrible news I had just received. It was Padma who came to my rescue.
“Come sit with me, Grant,” he said softly. “It is time for meditation.”
Padma led us down the bank of Harrods Creek to a large flat rock at water’s edge where he gracefully dropped to a perfectly balanced sitting position. Even though his back was ramrod straight, he didn’t look stiff. Instead, he seemed completely relaxed. For such a heavy-set man, he was amazingly nimble.
In sharp contrast to Padma, I was bent like a bow…rigid and filled with anxiety. The phone call from Ginny had ended abruptly. My repeated call backs dropped without a single ring. I desperately wanted to know where she was and who had her. If Ginny was taken by Slotter, then she was in grave danger. The not-knowing was unbearable.
“Grant, it’s time to get out of your head and come to your senses,” said Padma.
I felt a flash of anger and said a little too harshly, “What the hell does that mean?”
My anger didn’t last. It was instantly swallowed by the kindness in his eyes and just evaporated. I knew what he meant. It was time to quiet my worried thoughts and focus on the present moment. I really did try, but failed miserably. The last couple of days had been a nightmare that continued to plague me. My thoughts refused to be silenced.
With a graceful sweep of his arm Padma said, “What do you see?”
I half-heartedly glanced in that direction and mumbled something about a creek. Like any good teacher, he enthusiastically praised my correct answer. I knew he was pulling my leg, but the silliness of his praise somehow managed to hook me. So, I took another look.
When the spring rains pour heavy, Harrods Creek is a wide stream full of boulders and white water. On this summer day, it carried less water and flowed more gently around the rocks with only a touch of white.
The far shore was lined with dogwoods, redbuds, and a sycamore or two. Twenty feet downstream, a bushy-tailed red fox slipped quietly down the bank and took a sip of water. Two baby foxes followed close behind.
It is a rare treat to see a fox and a miracle to see a family enjoying one of the simple pleasures in life. The kids were more interested in play than water. They chased each other through the tall grass, darting back and forth in a joyful game of tag. Oddly, the fox family paid no attention to us until a splash sent them scurrying back into the safety of the woods.
The splash came from a small eddy behind the flat rock I was sitting on. A small tail fin was sticking vertically out of the water. I had never seen anything like it. How does a fish do that?
Curious, I reached down and grabbed hold with my thumb and forefinger. You’d think the alarmed fish would dart away. But it didn’t. So, I gave a little tug. Something pulled back, even harder. My competitive nature took over and I tugged back. The fish came out of the water, slipped through my fingers with a splash, and swam away.
I thought that was the end of it, but an angry water moccasin popped its head out of the water and glared at me for ruining its meal. I jumped out of my skin. Snakes scare me and water moccasins are one of Kentucky’s most poisonous varieties. Padma just laughed his ass off as I jumped to another rock.
“Real funny,” I grumbled. “I hate snakes.”
“You and Indiana Jones,” giggled Padma.
Comparing me to Indiana Jones was a stretch, but it somehow made me feel better and I smiled for the first time that morning.
“Oh, you’ve found your humor,” said Padma. “That’s good. Connecting with your inner smile is what meditation is all about. If you can do that 24/7, especially during a crisis, then you will have discovered the secret of life.”
His comments surprised me, so I said, “That’s it…that’s the meditation lesson. I thought we were going to sit in lotus posture and chant a mystical phrase or something.”
Padma’s only response was to do that laughing Santa thing he does. It was annoying at first, but suddenly I got it. A huge load lifted and light poured through me. Before long, I was laughing like Santa myself.
When the laughter subsided, he suggested I take a moment to acknowledge the healing that had just taken place and to never forget the difference it can make in one’s life. I can’t explain it, but I suddenly had this overwhelming sense of energy and felt invincible. All of my senses were heightened and I knew with great certainty that I could save Ginny.
“Anxiety is toxic,” he said. “Never let it rule you.”
I wanted to kiss him, but settled for a much manlier bear hug. The unmistakable thunder of Harley Davidson motorcycles interrupted our embrace and we made our way back to the house.
Six hogs thundered toward us in a staggered formation. There wasn’t a rice burner in the group. The lead chopper flew a black flag with a red dragon, its left claw squeezed blood from a beating heart and the right supported a big set of balls. The dragon image was also inlaid into the chopper’s paint job, flowing from the front fender to the rear. A small bell dangled from the bike’s frame just inches from the asphalt…a warning to the road gremlins that they weren’t to mess with this bike.
The solo saddle made it clear that this biker always road alone. The wide seat was filled with an even wider ass supporting a gut that hung way over the gas tank. The biker’s belly was covered with a tattoo of the red dragon except its claws stretched from his chest down into his dirty jeans. Long greasy salt and pepper hair was pulled back into a French braid. Mr. Braid’s long beard was divided into two similar braids that were tied off with chrome pony tail holders.
The next two bikes were less flashy…a couple of black Harley Low Riders with lots of chrome. The riders, however, were a different story. It was two chicks as different as night and day. The blond wore her hair man short and spiked at crazy angles. She wore no makeup and her only adornment was a hand full of huge silver rings that, when taken as a whole, formed the shape of a dragon. In fact, it looked like a set of fancy brass knuckles.
This chick looked like she could put a hurting on someone. Her thick muscular biceps would have made any body-builder proud. Obviously, she spent a lot of time in the gym. In fact, the closer I looked the more convinced I became she was a body builder herself. Ms. Amazon’s shoulders, back, chest, and thighs were massive, like her biceps. She was a big girl, but there wasn’t an ounce of fat on her. Odd, but she had this massive chest and no tits.
A thick black leather sweat band displayed a hot pink dragon centered on her forehead. Just below the dragon, wrap-around sun glasses rested on the bridge of her nose. Both nostrils were pierced with pink studs. A wife beater was stretched tight across her chest. It was stenciled with hot pink lettering that proclaimed: “I’m a Survivor Motherfucker.” A Susan G. Komen pink ribbon made it clear she was a breast cancer survivor.
Her faded jeans were held up by a thick black leather belt with an antique silver dragon buckle. The jeans were ripped at both knees and mid-thigh on the left. Strapped to the right thigh was a black handled commando knife. Her wardrobe was completed with square-toed black engineer boots.
The other chick was hot in a scary kind of way, all dressed in black like Cat Woman. This one had no need to confirm she was female. In fact, she wasn’t wearing a shirt. Her double D’s just barely squeezed into a black leather vest that looked as if it could burst at any moment.
She wore tight-fitting black leather pants that displayed a prominent camel toe. If there was any doubt about her role, a black leather whip with multiple tails tucked into her thigh-high dominatrix boots, made it clear she was the one who dealt out the punishment.
Ms. Dom’s witchy black hair blew wild in the wind and partially obscured her freakish white face. For an instant it formed a tai chi pattern that most people call the yin-yang symbol. She wore no eye protection, unless you want to count black makeup painted in a jagged pattern around her green eyes. If there was any warmth in her wide Cheshire cat smile, it was lost in blood red lips that stood out in sharp contrast to her pale face.
Close behind Ms. Dom was a gorilla clinging to a set of ape hangers. These are tall handlebars that extend above the biker’s head, giving the impression that he is hanging from a tree. He was the only rider wearing a helmet…a simple black brain bucket with stickers pasted all over it. He was still too far away to read them, but the red dragon pasted on the forehead was unmistakable.
There was no hair showing below the tiny helmet except for a mustache and goatee, unless you want to count the bushy unibrow. His brow was pinched tight and both corners of his eyes were pierced. King Kong had a square face and no neck. A thick tuft of reddish hair pushed its way through the neck of his Harley Davidson t-shirt.
The next rider in line rode hands-free. In fact, he was arched backwards over the rear wheel with his arms spread wide palms facing the sun. “Ole’ George” was painted on the tank of his vintage Harley Davidson Pan Head.
Ole’ George wore a crumpled black Fedora. I don’t have a clue how he kept it from blowing away. Maybe the hat was just too intimidated to cross him. His craggy face was cut with four parallel lines rising from the corners of his mouth…one set to his nostrils and the other to his cheek bones.
Despite the hot weather, his raw boned frame was covered with multiple layers of clothing. It was nothing fancy…a blue jean vest with club patches, flannel shirt open to the navel, and a black Grateful Dead t-shirt. I don’t consider myself a Deadhead, but for some reason I instantly heard a few lines of their song “Built to Last” play in my head.
The final biker was Eve’s husband, Gil. Shit. This time he brought his gang with him. The bikers pulled to a stop in front of the house and shut down their hogs. The rumble of Screaming Eagle pipes was replaced by engineer boots crunching loose gravel. They spread out like hunters driving their prey to the kill. A beat-down seemed imminent, but I refused to be cowed. Instead, I waited…relaxed and ready to fight, if necessary. It was the smallest of the bikers who broke the silence.
In a gravelly voice Ole’ George said, “You the motherfucker that killed Tiny?”