The Handkerchief and the Geese
Edward had season tickets to the symphony. He had not missed a performance in twelve years. He also attended the theatre regularly, and he knew intimately each piece in the art museum. As he took his daily walk he took great joy in everything he saw. Each sunset he watched as though it was the most spectacular thing he had ever seen. Edward lived a life of joy and appreciation of all beauty.
Once, while sitting on a bench in the park overlooking the little lake he suddenly began to cry. It was not the geese and swans that brought on his emotional release, though they were indeed beautiful to behold. Nor was it the majestic large cottonwood trees lining the opposite shore. They were bathed in the light of the setting sun and a very light breeze set their leaves to shimmering, but he saw this almost daily. There seemed to be a beautiful melody playing in his mind, but it was not this that brought forth the tears.
There were no memories playing themselves out in his mind, in fact his mind was empty. He had not been thinking about anything when he was overcome. His tears were not those of sadness, nor those of joy. They just seemed to suddenly come of their own accord. Edward’s body was completely at rest and not in pain. He could not understand why he was crying. Wiping his tears with his hand, more tears issued forth. He grew disconcerted as he realized that he had no control over them whatsoever. Adjusting his posture on the park bench, he pulled out a handkerchief from his jacket and began mopping up tears with it. They would not stop.
Eventually he stood and turned around as though to get his bearings. Looking all around him, Edward realized there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, yet something seemed different. He searched his mind for an explanation to this phenomenon but came up with nothing. He had been feeling no emotions, but as the tears continued unabated he began to feel some panic.
Edward was not a man given to crying often but he did cry tears of joy on occasion. To be moved to tears by an exceptional performance at the theatre or symphony was something he allowed himself, in fact it was something he actually sought, but these tears he now was subject to were nothing at all like that. Remembering the tears of sadness he shed when his wife had died many years ago were also tears he allowed himself full expression of. All those other tears seemed to have purpose and purgative and rejuvenating qualities. The tears he now shed, however, had none of those qualities.
Edward began walking the path away from the bench where he had been sitting. He kept dabbing his face with his handkerchief. As his pace picked up he remembered the time when he was nine years old and was being chased by a dog. He was crying then and they were tears of fright. Stopping in his tracks, he turned around, but there was no dog following him. He was not afraid, but he was certainly confused. Dabbing his face again, he turned back around and resumed walking. The tears continued unabated.
Soon, he noticed that someone was approaching him on the path. Awkwardly, he turned off the path and walked a ways onto the grass and stopped, facing the lake. He did not want to be seen crying uncontrollably. As he sensed this person walk by, Edward dabbed his face yet again with the handkerchief, which he noticed was now thoroughly soaked. He also noticed that his hands were cold and sweaty now and he could feel sweat begin beading on his forehead. Unable to understand this spontaneous flood of tears, panic began taking hold of Edward. As the person was now past him, he returned to the path and accelerated his walk towards home.
A wealthy independent man, Edward was always in control of his life. He took pride in keeping his body in prime condition, and his mind, too. What was it that usurped his control? It was not his body that was giving out — or at least it did not seem so. It was nothing outside of himself that pulled the tears forth. He had always been able to calmly reason every situation confronting him, but his inability to do so now intensified his panic. He was now walking briskly.
As the path wound towards the lake and began following right along the shore line, Edward suddenly realized that he could no longer hear his footsteps on the path. He was about to look down at his feet when his full attention was stolen by scores of geese as they simultaneously lifted up from the water into flight. He stopped and turned to watch the geese lift off. It was always a sight that took his breath away. The sound of all the geese honking made him forget his crying for a moment. He was riveted on the sight of the geese as they flew together in a circle around the lake. His body turned slowly to follow their flight. It was as the geese flew around to his side of the lake that Edward felt he was no longer crying, but he could not take his attention away from the birds.
Edward craned his neck as the geese flew right over him. Suddenly, to his amazement, he found himself lifting up into the air. Before he could reason what was happening Edward had become one of the geese and was flying through the air. He flew around the lake with the geese one full time, then, as the geese began descending back to the water, he realized that he was still ascending into the air. Although he was not afraid of falling, he did not look down. He briefly gave thought to what was happening to his body but let go of this and began luxuriating in the lightness he was feeling. Closing his eyes, he felt himself float ever higher. A soft music began playing and a sweetness filled his being.
Soon there was nothing left but his handkerchief floating slowly back down to earth.
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