The day started out unusually cold, by Southern California standards. When I let George out for his morning pee, my cell phone weather app told me that it we 37 degrees. It was still cold, shortly before 9 AM, when I made my way to our Sunday morning sitting group. Our custom is to sit for an hour of silent meditation, and then to talk for another hour about some aspect of the dharma. An hour's sit is usually not a huge challenge for me, but on this occasion, for the first time ever, I had to get up and leave after forty minutes.
I have had difficult moments in the past, when the hour has seemed interminably long, or when I have been seized with sudden physical discomforts like a dreadful pain in the legs or inexplicable heating-up or cooling of the body temperature; but I have always been able to breathe my way through the discomfort and survive the hour. On this day, though, I was overcome by a feeling of dizziness and nausea, along with a body chill that would not go away, no matter how much I tried to ignore the sensations and hold my attention on the breath. Worse, it all turned into a downward spiral bordering on panic.
I opened my eyes and tried, instead, to focus my attention on the pattern of the carpet. I put my head down between my knees in the attempt to counter the dizziness, without success. Minutes went by with excruciating slowness. After five or ten, it still felt as though, if I closed my eyes again, I would keel over and end up on the floor. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and--as I say, for the first time ever--got up and made my way as quietly as possible to the door. I found a chair outside, and by now the sun was beginning to feel warm, so I spent the remainder of the hour there, to be joined, before the end of the sit, by a worried Ellie who had sensed my unusual departure. Once home, hydration helped; as did, a short while later, a bite to eat.
So... I survived. The other strange experience for the day was a far more pleasant one. By early afternoon we were enjoying warm sunlight on the back patio and I went out to indulge in my once weekly vice--a Sunday afternoon cigar. (So sue me. I defer to our Native American friends, who have long honored tobacco as a sacred healing substance. That's my excuse, anyway.) There I am, then, sitting with my Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle (the hardest of the week; I save it for Sunday afternoon) when I hear the distinctive sound of a hummingbird close by. This was not too unusual in itself, because the hummers like the plants on our patio and come visiting quite often.
What was unusual, though, was that after darting away, this one returned just a few moments later. And again. And again. The bird kept coming back, quite close, a bit closer each time, clearly examining me, as if he (she?) wanted to make friends. I was touched. I told him, quietly, that he was welcome, that I would be honored by his friendship if he cared to stay. But I guess it's in the nature of the hummer to keep darting hither and yon, and our friendship was necessarily a brief and peripatetic one.
I was surprised, of course, by the bird's evident interest in me. I wondered whether it might be the delicious smell of my cigar--though, second thoughts, probably not! And then, more likely, whether it could be the bright red baseball cap my daughter brought me, with the Welsh dragon on the front, as a gift from her visit to the village in Wales where I spent many summer months in my childhood, and where my parents spent their retirement years. Or maybe, as I would like to believe, he just wanted to be friends...