Excerpt from The Hierarchy of Weeds
The days ticked away in clearly defined increments. Routine saved Purslane and she threw herself into her daily grind with new enthusiasm. It wasn’t a happy kind of enthusiasm but one she hoped would keep her thoughts in line.
A straight line that she could see clearly. Her family, her home, a decent job and responsibilities. Purslane had to refocus and get things into perspective. Her life was good. Very good and yet there was this gnawing, unrelenting desire. And now the desire was paired with envy. It heightened her own resentment and bitterness. Like a beast that had to be kept caged and at bay, Purslane tried to diminish its presence in her mind. She thought she’d purge it away and burned over 200 pages of her own writing in a roaring fire one evening when Reggie and Mariposa were away. But there would be no catharsis. She watched as the pages curled and rolled into blue and yellow flames, the fire growing so large that it howled a deep roar up the chimney. She sipped at a glass of wine and then another and another and scolded herself for writing. “Dribble, muck and junk! Burn baby burn. Useless slop and who the fuck cares anyway?”
One Week Later
Purslane had another dream. She recalled it slowly at first. Sipping her coffee in the quiet of a new day, alone with the cold and the early morning sound of wind and rain against the windows. It came to her in bits. She stood as a child among a small group of adults. Purslane had short hair in the dream. She looked like a 10 year old boy. The adults circled her as if waiting for her to speak. In her dream the little boy that she knew was herself said to the adults, “I get my messages from my propst.” And that was it. End of dream. But in the dream Purlsane knew she was Buddhist. Knew it as a simple matter of fact. Purslane poured another cup of coffee and returned to the sofa, folding her legs back into the same position, finding the same spot where her body heat had warmed the leather. She tucked a blanket under her feet and tried to coax more details of the dream from her brain. But nothing more could be recalled. Short and simple just like the bird dream. Purslane heard Reggie moving about upstairs and remembered they had made plans to attend mass.
On the drive home from church Purslane shared her dream, growing excited as she told Reggie of the few details. “A Bhuddist Reggie! What do you think about that?” Reggie shrugged his shoulders and turned to his wife, “We just left Catholic mass—I don’t know what to think of it. Maybe it’s because of that show we watched on TV. The Tibetans remember?”
“The Tibetan Bhuddists? But what’s a propst?” Purslane sighed and opened the weekly newsletter from St. Anthony’s. She read the usual announcements about the sick who needed prayers and the Knights of Columbus having a pancake breakfast next week. And then an article about prophets. Seeing the letters on paper showed Purslane the similarity. “Reggie what if propst is supposed to be prophets? Look at the word. It’s almost spelled the same!” Reggie laughed nervously, “Stop it, you’re scaring me.”
“I can’t Reggie. Something is happening. There’s a message for me here and I have to figure it out.”
Purslane, who had converted to Catholicism a few years earlier, who had never even known a Buddhist and knew nothing of the Buddhist faith, threw herself into a frenzy of research. Reading internet articles and books from the library, she swallowed up knowledge. Learning about detachment and the Buddhist philosophy on pain and suffering she began to peel back the layers of her heart, to find a reason and purpose in what her childhood had been, in what her own desires had done to her and how the ego is the source of much deception. Purslane read about the eight auspicious signs and found a condensed version of the Bhagavad Gita , India’s most holy book, at the library. She had Reggie rent the movie Seven Years in Tibet and watched with rapt attention. She read another book about a man who trekked across the Tibetan mountains and met a Lama, followed him and experienced strange and wonderful happenings along the way. She read excerpts from the Tibetan book of the Dead and watched a beautiful, lyrical movie full of imagery about reincarnation where a woman’s son died and she became confined to a dark and scary place where her family tried desperately and were finally able to reach her. Reggie fell asleep during the movie but Purslane, her mind so ready to absorb all things Buddhist, took every word to heart and knew, by then—understood– that the woman had not been able to accept pain, a necessary part of life. She was trapped in the ‘why’ of suffering, waiting for it to pass as if it would just leave her. She had built a brick wall to keep the pain out but in doing so kept all things out. Blocked out life itself. Purslane thought of her first dream and wondered if there could be Buddhist meaning in the bird. She searched the internet typing in Buddhist bird and came upon articles and stories about Garuda, a great winged creature so large he could block the sun. A lower level Indian deity, Garuda is a mythical bird or birdlike creature whose wingspan is said to be several miles long. Garuda is thought to pluck the worms of jealousy from ones brain. That was her bird! So large his wings could block the sun.
As if there wasn’t enough to occupy Purslane’s thoughts and energies, she had yet another dream. This dream woke her with startling clarity and she did not struggle to pull the details forth. Her heart raced remembering and reliving the short scenario—a dream in which she heard the voice of God! He said to her ‘a name will be revealed at the next full moon.’ And in her dream the deep resonance of his voice shook the bare walls of the small room she was in. Purslane had the feeling that there might have been one or two others with her in the dream but she could see no one. She heard just the sound of His voice in that small box like room. A voice that seemed to come from above and below and inside. A voice that penetrated her very bones. She feared she might be losing her mind. At work she fought to listen to patients as they arrived, sniffling and coughing their names across the counter. In between check back appointments, copays and phone calls she searched the web to see when the next full moon would be and again wondered if she were going crazy or perhaps she’d already arrived at crazy. Had she been living crazy? Born crazy and finally a moment of lucidity had given her this profound awakening?
The next full moon would happen on January 21. Purslane would not tell Reggie about this latest dream. Not yet. The 21st came and went and it came for Purslane with a mixture of fear and anticipation. Whose name would be revealed? How would she know it was THE name? The 21st of January passed uneventfully. Purslane was thankful no name had come to her. No more mystical dreams wove their way into her weary subconscious and she was grateful for the break.
Purslane reclaimed her belief in her own sanity and started each day with her usual coffee and the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. February approached, the sky blued up at times and the garden dirt outside Purslane’s front room window became dappled with the yellow and purple heads of crocuses. But overall there was a definite lack of color. Purslane looked at her face in the mirror and saw the same absence. It was as if she were in a kind of holding pattern, circling from above with no real connection to anything below. Purslane suggested a trip to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. Reggie was interested, mainly because Reggie loved driving and enjoyed going new places and not for any real interest in museums or colored glass for that matter. Inside the museum Reggie and Purslane strolled about leisurely. They followed the smooth flowing lines of glass sculptures and structures, their eyes sometimes tracing the path of a single glass creation around the entire room. They marveled at the sharpness and delicacy of some works and at the density and enormity of others. They walked along the bridge of glass as traffic streamed by in the freeway below and looked up in awe and wonder at the giant pieces of pale blue and green cubed glass that towered above them like giant sticks of rock candy. Before leaving the museum they visited the gift shop and Purslane bought a glass fish and a coloring book to send to Reggie’s nephews in Berkeley. The next day Purslane picked up the souvenir book she’d purchased. “Coloring the Light” was created by Cappy Thompson, a local glass artist. Her coloring book was full of fun and interesting images drawn in a thick black outline. Purlsane smiled as she turned each page but stopped breathing when she came upon the drawing of a big, smiling moon face. It filled the entire page. It was a full moon. Her index finger traced the black outline slowly. She felt a buzzing in her ears and quickly closed the book to re-read the name of the books creator. Cappy Thompson. Purslane turned the next page after the moon face and came upon something called a ‘Cappy Cube’. It was a craft project of sorts where kids color a series of connected squares and then fold the squares along the lines to form a cube, a paper box. In its unfolded state the boxes were in the shape of a cross. A cross and the moon and God’s voice. Purslane was glad to be in the house alone. “This is it! This is the name! The full moon is just a kid’s coloring picture!” Purslane ran her hand across the smooth glossy cover of the book. She looked at every page again, carefully examining each figure, each form. The drawings were of winged creatures, beautiful mythical animals with horns and riding in chariots or swimming in the heavens among stars as if the sky was just another ocean.