Golden Retrievals…………….Mark Doty
Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention
seconds at a time. Catch? I don’t think so.
Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s — oh
joy — actually scared. Sniff the wind, then
I’m off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue
of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?
Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you never can bring back,
or else you’re off in some fog concerning
— tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time’s warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,
a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.
There is a Buddhist idea of being in the now, of being present. You are in a calm middle ground that is not pulled by regrets of the past or by anxiety about the future. You are fully in the moment, you are fully “present.” The demands of ego dissipate, and judgment is in short supply.
This state has a centered, peaceful quality. It is not easy to attain. Some people practice meditation to achieve this state. Some look to their canine buddies for inspiration. Some special beings simply have this quality from an early age.
When I met David during the American Idol tour last September, I was struck by his calm presence. He had a joyfulness that rested on a deep peace. He stood there, so patient, so ready for whatever would come. He was present, completely in the now. As I’ve watched him over the past few months, he has shared many different public sides of himself, but through it all, I see a core of calm, of living from his center.
Watching him interact with fans is a lesson in patience and non-judgment. Think of the variety of fans that he must face: giddy 12-year-olds, nervous 50-year-olds, men and women of all ages and orientations and backgrounds and nationalities. He treats them all the same – have you noticed? He has a joyful, peaceful countenance that fills the space with love, and with acceptance. He is fully present only for you, the fan in front of him, even though there are hundreds more in line behind you.
David has a full range of musical connections. He can bring on the exuberant energy and get us dancing (think Zero Gravity); he can go to that almost agonizing place of yearning and make us ache with pain (think Don’t Let Go). He can also take us to a place of stillness and peace.
When he sang Angels in Albuquerque, there was a stillness in that dingy club. Bodies were calm, voices mercifully quieted. David went to that place of deep peace and those of us who were ready, went with him. Past and future fell away and there was only The Voice that took us on a ride. Soaking up his voice felt like a blessing. As he stood up to go, he said, “I love you!”
… And I know that he does.
How did he find that centered place of calm? How does he muster the strength and patience to show love to every fan? How does he take us to that place of peace, and make us feel that he is singing only to us? This is the mystery. But perhaps he is simply living from his true self, our Bodhisattva David, being present.