Take Your Place
by Eve Marko

I’m walking in the forest and my head is full of ideas on what Bernie needs to do to get better and stronger after stroke. Mostly these ideas are all about doing more: go out more, be with more people, go someplace for lunch, walk up and down the driveway with someone alongside or on the uneven grass in back, do brain exercises, etc. Where do we get a good neurologist? A second opinion on dental surgery? Reliable advice about the Taub Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama?

I might as well be in the shower for all I notice of the things around me, and inside I feel an old, familiar manic energy.

But at some point my brain activity slows, then stops. I walk softer and start listening: to the hoot of an owl deeper inside the forest, Stanley’s happy, furtive breath, the gurgle of the creek below that’s been denied rain for so long. Being present is a present, if only because you start realizing that you’re not all that important, that what goes on for you is not all that important, that every living being goes through some of what you’re going through, including the very beings you’re passing this moment. That’s both humbling and comforting at the same time. You forgive a lot, you understand a lot, you can just live and die as you are.

It’s as if the trees are saying take your place among us. The small shrubs that struggle in vain for sunlight in that place of shadows, they’re saying take your place among us. The branches fallen on the ground say take your place among us. The grass that’s brown because we’ve had no rain tells me: take your place among us. Take your place. The only place you stand out, where events stream by in big marquee letters, is inside your brain, nowhere else. Everywhere else you’re just taking your place among everything else, and that feels very different.

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