In That Life

In that life
I travel continuously
Through the developing world
Teaching and being taught
In flyblown village after sea port.
I wear sandals mostly,
Subsist on whole grains and vegetables
Savor a piece of fruit for “dessert.”
In that life
Each of my frequent moves
Is dictated by dreams
Or perceived answers to prayers
That I trust with radiant eagerness.
I cheerfully embrace the life of a clean and godly vagabond
Wife inexplicably good with it all
Children multilingual and all the more resilient
And well adjusted for the constant uprooting.
Drifting, nameless apostle of peace
I serve the world’s neediest
From dawn-prayers till midnight,
Living off the gratitude
Of those I’ve served without expectation
The Universe mystically providing my daily bread,
My just-in-time inventory.

In that other life
I wear boots mostly,
The better to traverse mountain passes
Break branches for kindling, stomp vermin.
In that other life
I take my stand in a world
Either primeval or postapocalyptic
Wife and children and me a nation-state unto ourselves
With diplomatic ties to neighbors in the next valley over.
I plant a forest garden
Dispatch grizzlies with an atlatl
Greet summer in buckskin
Winter in a bison robe.
The forest and a few choice tools
Provide our house and everything in it.
My sons grow strong and virtuous
From wholesome self-reliance
Uncorrupted by Hollywood or Washington.
Happily ignorant of Wall Street and Madison Avenue.
Nature heaps her bounty on us
And we soar in the satisfaction
That comes from manual competence,
Mastery of seasons.

In this life
I am me.
Compared to the extremes of dreams it seems
A life of privilege and worry
Fretting over trivia
Escapist entertainment
Modest, prudent plans sure to be inadequate
For a volatile, unhinged future.
In this life
Spiritual wandering is replaced
By service on a Sunday school committee,
Divine dreams by theological calculations,
Pascal’s Wager, mitigation of bad karma.
Self reliance expressed as bushcraft videos
Reenacted in the backyard,
And Monday night scouts.

With age comes wisdom,
And don’t I know that seventy-two hours
In either other life
Would send me running back to this one:
Air conditioning, vaccinations
Retirement plans, dental
Little league, college day
Stability.

Archetypes kindle longing,
Tug us gently in their directions.
Withal, this life is good —
Blessed a millionfold
Beyond deserving.

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