By Katharine Kaufman //
In 1965 I was 7. On certain nights my parents sat at the dining room table with their lists and three by five cards. “I am trying to be patient!” my mother says. Her voice has some authority, like she is the only one working at it. Patience itself is impatient. The act of trying is lonely and it split us from each other. Impatience turns to fear, anger. Why won’t this be like I want? My father’s patience transformed to face twitches, shoulder shrugs, and sighs. He tosses up his hands, walks from the room.
The man answering the phone says his name, Kaylin, with equal emphasis on the Kay and lin. The name means meadow, water, pool. Kaylin mumbles and stutters. Interesting choice, being the answer- the- calls- guy for the credit union, I think. After a first rush of irritation, I decide to like Kaylin. His voice sounds like he has water in his mouth, plus the stutter. I ask him to repeat. I put more attention into listening. Kaylin is patient with me too. My shoulders crunch forward, tiny breaths and my thoughts tight and blocky. I don’t know if the automatic withdrawal will go through. I feel stupid and embarrassed. The last time I paid all the bills there were checks and paper and I sealed envelopes with my tongue. I don’t get it, I say. He starts over again, to the beginning. What do you need to know, he asks. Where is the money when Xcel says I have paid and the bank says pending, I say. It’s in the middle, he says, not here or there. In a place in-between.
I don’t ask Kaylin, what’s the difference between the utility bill and the heat. I don’t tell him that Steve now lives in Fredrick, and small things like this feel large—like I am 300 pounds and how do I get off the floor. Then I figure out I had flipped the dollar amount from 64 to 46. Kaylin does the math: I have 18 dollars to spare! We both really laugh together like we figured out something good.
We’re new to this town and what should we do about the moths, a neighbor asks on nextdoordotcom. Miller moths don’t eat your clothes, answers from the west side. The cats play with them, from the north. They are migrating. They will be gone soon. I write too: Try not to be afraid of them. Love them.
Kafka, in a letter to his young friend, Gustav Janouch:
One must have sympathy for everything, surrender to everything, but at the same time remain patient and forbearing… There is no such thing as bending or breaking. It’s a question only of overcoming, which begins with overcoming oneself. That cannot be avoided. To abandon that path is always to break in pieces. One must patiently accept everything and let it grow within oneself. The barriers of the fear-ridden can only be broken by love. One must, in the dead leaves that rustle around one, already see the young fresh green of spring, compose oneself in patience, and wait. Patience is the only true foundation on which to make one’s dreams come true. *
Kafka says, “Patience is the master key to every situation.” The word Kaylin also means the keeper of the keys.
I lean my elbow on the windowsill in my office, place my hand on the screen near the moth. I breathe out slowly and wait. She fly-hops away from me and then steps toward my hand. She climbs on and I quickly cup her, trying to make my hands hollow, a small cave, with no openings. I feel the dense body and soft wings flutter. I walk quickly to the front door and then decide the back yard would be more hospitable. I open the back screen door with my elbow and shoulder and swing my arms up, tossing my hands open.
~ o ~
About the Author
Katharine Kaufman teaches meditation, writing workshops, Yoga, and contemplative dance in Boulder County and at Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado. She taught for many years at The Yoga Workshop and Studio Bein Boulder. Katharine is an adjunct professor at Naropa University. She holds MFAs in Performance/Choreography and Writing/Poetics. She is priest ordained in the Soto Zen lineage of Kobun Chino and Vanja Palmers, Roshis. www.katharinekaufman.com
Featured image by Rachel Becker