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Lions Roar : May 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2009 73 WHEN I WAS A CHIld, I found a secret place in the bayberry bushes. In the sum- mers my family floated free from the known world—the world that was measured by carpools and sidewalks—and went to the seashore. It was lonely for me there; I felt alone in my separate self, in my dungaree shorts, with dirty knees and poison ivy be- tween my toes. I would put my jackknife in my pocket and slip through a scratchy gap in the bush- es and into a clearing the size of a small room—an almost flat piece of land on the flank of a hill, overlooking Menemsha Pond. From this bushy room, I could see sails and the shimmering dunes across the water. I practiced cartwheels and handstands, turn- ing the world upside down. I sat on the grass and whittled sticks. Back in the house, my father was shut up in his study writing all the time. My mother tied her hair up in a bandanna and tried to keep us kids from bothering him. My little sisters, considerably younger than me, chased each other around the house, screeching. I felt the tension of our family life—a sad- ness I couldn’t cure, couldn’t even name as sadness. I lay on the ground that was crunchy with lichen, while the sky did cartwheels above me. As the day came to an end, the sun’s light turned a thicker and thicker yellow and clouds rushed away from me and disappeared into the void on the other side of the horizon. This daily ending, staged with the smell of the bayber- ry and the crying of the gulls, gave me a lump in my throat—a shout I couldn’t shout out. I had no playmates and we had no neighbors nearby; my schoolteacher father liked to get away from people in the sum- mer. But it wasn’t just someone to play with that I wanted. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I read Howard Pyle’s Robin hood and made plans to start a Robin Hood club when we got back to town in the fall. My friends and I would learn to fight with cudgels and we’d defend the little kids in the neighborhood against the bullies. I would be little John who, big and kind, was my favorite of Robin Hood’s band. I found a stick of driftwood on the beach and practiced fighting with my cudgel. I made it sing as I swung it through the air. Books from the public library were company. One summer I went through all of louisa May Alcott’s, with their plain, cloth li- brary-bindings stamped with gold on the spine. I went kite flying with Jo in Little Men and then with my family in what’s called real time, on a day when my father wasn’t so depressed. He was the captain of the kite; he was a sailor and this was another kind of sail. We got the kite aloft and it grew smaller and smaller as it rose closer to the gibbous moon. Then my father held onto the spool of string and we walked down the hill, climbed into the rowboat, and pushed off from the beach. My father let me put on garden gloves and hold the string while the kite pulled us, frictionless, across the pond. It was magic, as if God himself were up there in the air pulling us along, though my parents didn’t speak of God. Whether meditating or doing headstands, Susan Moon’s small self continues to reach for something beyond. If She Can Bear the Longing PHOTOBySEANJUSTICE/GETTyIMAGES