Fourth way writings by Pierce Butler

12 December: The Bad Day

   Her friend had come in early and helped her to dress and stayed to straighten out the room. But she did not gossip or chatter about the pigs, and there was an excessive care in the way in which she handled things, as though she was holding some unexpressed feeling in check. And the invalid knew what it was. Her friend wished to escape from the sickroom, to be released from the servitude into which she had been drawn, to take her place in the community again. And the invalid wished with all her heart for her friend to go. But when she spoke, she heard in her own voice her loneliness and her fear of being alone.
   “It is a bad day,” she said. “So gray and cold. I have never been so cold. I feel that I will never again be entirely warm.”
   It was not cold in the room, though the fire was burned down. She meant that something within her was losing warmth, that she was watching it slowly leach away, powerless to stop it. But her friend said:
    “I will go and bring you more wood.”
    “Oh no, there is plenty.”
    “Are you sure? I want to do something for you. If only I could make the sun shine…”
    “Quite sure, thank you. There is nothing I need, nothing I want that I can have.”
    In her friend’s place she would have felt the same thing, the thing that Jack had felt, the thing that came between them. It was intolerable to be shut up with someone who was sick, who would never be well. One longed to shake off the constraint, if only for a time, to feel the heedless life of one’s own body, and to forget all sickness and ill-health. She must tell her to go then; they would both feel better. But she did not want to be alone, not on what was such a bad day for her, when she felt so alone with her fate.
    Her friend stooped, placed a log on the fire, and warmed her hands. Then she turned to the bed and looked straight into the invalid’s eyes. “Katherine, would you mind if I go out to the Study House? I want to work there for a while.”
    The invalid could not meet her eyes. She looked away.
    “No, indeed. Why shouldn’t you go?” In another minute she would cry—but her friend was gone. To run away from her with such indecorous haste. The tears came and she let them fall. It was too much to ask of any friend, to bear with her day after day. But oh! today of all days, a bad day, an evil day, when she felt so undefended, when the great waste of nothingness seemed to open out before her soul and she longed for the merest distraction. No one could have been a better friend to her than Olgivanna, Mr. Gurdjieff’s instructions notwithstanding. She was more devoted in her way than Ida, certainly more loving, stronger by far in confronting the reality of the situation than Jack. Her nights were all spent in the invalid’s room, sitting on a little stool by the fire, listening to the recitation of her fears, talking a little, dozing, waiting for sleep to come to the woman in the bed. She had been up early, she had worked hard all day, but she came because the invalid could not sleep unless her friend was with her. It was more than one had a right to expect of flesh and blood. But her friend had borne it—until today.
    She got out of bed, drew a blanket about her shoulders, and sat at the writing desk before the window. Once there she surprised herself by picking up a pencil and writing on a piece of stationery:
    I should like this to be accepted as my confession.
    Is there no limit to the suffering that one human being is asked to bear? One thinks, Now I have touched bottom, I can go no deeper. And then one goes deeper. But I do not wish to die without leaving a record of my belief that suffering can be overcome. What to do? There is no question of “passing beyond it.” That is false. One must submit. Accept it fully. Make it part of life.
    But what does it mean, to make it part of life? I have always tried to thrust all forms of suffering away from me, to escape from suffering in all of the innumerable ways by which people distract themselves: society, art, love—and hate. I know that there is suffering, that suffering is inescapable, that each one receives his portion of suffering, great or small. But I have always behaved as though an exception would be made in the case of KM, I alone of all would not have to bear my burden, I would escape from it through the company of my dear friends, through my writing, through the love I would share with Jack and with our child. Sometimes that love seemed all; it was the assurance that he and I were special, singled out, spared the vicissitudes of the common lot. My illness then seemed like some malevolent thing, mustering its forces against me in darkness and mystery, implacably opposed to my bright destiny. And little by little it convinced me that there could be no bright destiny, no exemption from pain, no escape from suffering…
    When I was a young girl of twelve or thirteen, a friend with whom I had quarreled sent me a series of very hurtful letters. No doubt their cruelty was unconscious and childish, but they affected me deeply. I could not stop them from coming, nor could I forbear from reading them. I took my distress to my Grandma. What was I to do? I thrust the pile of letters into her lap. She let her fingers rest upon them gently, not looking at them, smiling faintly. Find yourself a beautiful box to put them in, child, she said. I will give you one. Put each letter in it as it comes. That will take the harm out of them—and remind you to be happy in yourself no matter what anybody says.
    Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. Suffering must become Love. To embrace suffering, to welcome her as one would welcome a guest, to sit down to sup with her, to wish for no other companion. To live this visitation breath by breath until it should pass, until it should grow less, for nothing lasts forever, not even suffering. To live with it if only for the space of a single breath, to wait with patience for the next breath in which one can be present to it again, even if it takes an hour, a morning, an entire day. Only in this way will I grow stronger.
    The illusion of separateness is our most cherished illusion. How we strive to protect it. And what a relief it must be to relinquish it. To feel, to know, I do not have to bear it alone. A plague of lighthouse keepers, Mr. Salzmann said, is what we are like, each one marooned upon the height of his tower, diligently tending his light, believing it to be the only light, knowing nothing of the Light that nourishes all lamps. That Light is Life, is Love. To acknowledge it is to let all defenses fall, to turn one’s unprotected face to the sun.
    Here for a strange reason rises before me the figure of the good doctor Chekhov, a good man, pure of heart. The sort of thing I am engaged in here would have meant nothing to him. And yet although no church has seen fit to canonize him, he is a kind of saint. Gorky’s description of him is best—Chekhov standing before a great crowd of the Russian people, speaking in his habitually quiet and unassuming manner, “You live badly, my friends. It is not good to live like this.” How should one live? How should one die? “The Church bells of Easter,” Chekhov wrote, “are all I have left of religion.” From the point of view of life, his last letters are terrible. He has disappeared into his illness. All hope is lost for him. Read the last: the world has dwindled to a ruined stomach and a shortness of breath that obliges him to lie motionless, a state of complete helplessness, such as mine. But it is hard—it is hard to make a good death.
    How did the good doctor face it? “It’s such a long time since I drank champagne.” And then to smile, to turn to the wall, to put Life away like a toy that one has grown tired of. To be pure of heart. To leave life on this earth as Chekhov left it. Oh! he is the one good man that I have known.
    She wrote this. She looked up. The bare trees were moving in the garden, the sky was pale, she found herself weeping.
    Came a sudden knock to the door. Her heart leaped. It was her friend returning.
    “Come in!” she cried.
    The haggard face of Mr. Rachmilevich, his lips stretched in a grimace that must have been intended for a smile, appeared around the door.
    “Excuse me, Mrs. Merry,”—and it was the first time she had heard him speak in English—“there is something you need today?”
    His accent was so thick that some time elapsed before she comprehended what he was saying to her.

It was evening when her friend returned. The invalid could tell who it was from the contrite sound of her knock. She was still sitting at her writing desk in a daze of exhaustion. Her friend stood by the door. “How have you been?”
    “Very well. Splendid.” She heard the note of false pride in her own voice. “Just fine.”
    Her friend looked away, as though embarrassed for her. “Who brought you the wood?”
    The invalid laughed, a short bitter laugh. “Who do you think has been to see me? Only one person, one dear friend, my favorite, remembered me on this day of days—Mr. Rachmilevich. Oh, I had quite a charming conversation with him. It seems that I have quite won him over by my kindness in bringing him back to the fold, which was not kindness at all. At least I think he was grateful to me; I must admit I do not understand him very well. But I am a reformed character. I talked to him for a long time. It was most instructive.”
    O: What did you discover?
    KM: That he is a human being, like the rest of us.
    O: And you no longer felt the same dislike of him?
    KM: How did you know I disliked him?
    O: (smiles and shakes her head)
    KM: I’m so embarrassed.
    O: Why should you be? We are all the same: You, me, Rachmilevich, Ms. Madison. You have seen that. We cannot help what we feel. But you overcame it—
    KM: Not at all. I disliked him just as much as ever, even when he was fetching wood for my fire. But my dislike of him—didn’t matter. It was just what I happened to be feeling. I didn’t let it upset me. In a way it was nothing to do with Mr. Rachmilevich, since it is in me, it is my responsibility. So I sat and talked with him and did not mind how long he stayed. In fact I was sorry when he left. I did not feel so lonely while he was here. I allowed him to give me some comfort.
    They were both smiling.
    “Katherine, you are wonderful. Will you forgive me?”
    The invalid felt a sudden painful contraction of the heart. “Forgive you? My guilt before you is much greater. I must confess. I complained about you to Mr. Rachmilevich. He wanted to hear or to say something disagreeable; that is his vocation. And I wanted to escape from my own pain by hurting you in some way. I told him I was cold because you left me without any wood. Will you forgive me?”
    She saw from the stricken look on her friend’s face that she had hurt her. “Oh, don’t you know how much I love you?” she cried. “This has been the most terrible day I have passed since I came here—and all because you were not here to keep me company.”
    Her friend sighed and made a gesture with her hand as though to reach out to her. “Let us forget it then. It was a bad day for both of us. Let’s not mention it again..”
    “Oh no,” she said, feeling her eyes fill with tears, “I want to hear what has happened to you, what you are feeling. I know I am undeserving, but please do not shut me out of your confidence. Not today. Please!”
    Her friend came and sat in the window and took her hands across the desk. There were tears in her eyes too. “Today I have lived like an automaton who does not have to rescue a human soul in distress, who does not have to destroy evil or inspire peace or justify any purpose, like a machine in mere physical motion, obeying the laws of physics only, letting all human problems go. Like an animal—like one of my pigs!”
    They laughed together. Something was released.
    The invalid got up and went to the dresser and took out three of her favorite silk scarves, the oriental ones, with the patterns that reminded her of a Moorish screen or of the Arabic script in certain illuminated manuscripts.
    “I want you to have something of mine,” she said. “Choose the one you like best.”
    “You choose for me. Which one do you think will suit me best?”
    She gave her the black one with the dark orange pattern around the edges. In her friend’s eyes she could see the sad knowledge that this was a parting gift. She could not bear it. She went back to the bed.
    “I am very tired,” she murmured. “I think I will rest now.”
    “I will keep it always,” her friend said. “It will remind me of a strange unhappy day, a day I want never to forget.”
    “Olgivanna,” she said, as the door began to close. “You will not forget your promise to introduce me to Patrick’s aunt.”
    There was a pause. She put her head down on the pillow and closed her eyes.
    “I will not forget.”

15 December: Can not get a wink of sleep. Get up and go down to the kitchen before anyone is stirring to ask for a cup of coffee. The kitchen crew is already hard at work, but Mr. Rachmilevich, an kitchen habitué who never lifts a finger, pours me a big mug, much more than I can drink, from the breakfast pot and brings me a scone hot from the oven. And he does so with such a good grace, such a genuine and ready smile; the negative thoughts I have had toward him smite me sorely.
    I take my coffee and scone into the breakfast room, but it is cold there and the empty tables make me sad. I turn back to the warmth of the kitchen and perch on a high stool in a corner. Nobody is paying any attention to me, but I’m cheered by the noise and the bustle of activity. I’m not in anybody’s way.
    Enter Ms. Madison. I open my mouth to bid her good morning, but she passes me with a cold look from her cold fish-like eye. If that’s the way you want to be, my dear, say I, you may suit yourself. But suddenly she is beside me, staring down at the mug and the scone. She hopes that I will not make a habit of asking for an early breakfast. I am aware, am I not? that no one is allowed in the kitchen at this hour save the crew for the day. It is a rule that Mr. Gurdjieff is especially adamant about. What would happen if every Tom, Dick, and Harry were to wander into the kitchen whenever the mood took him? Why, the efficient running of the kitchen and the prompt serving of meals would be rendered immeasurably more difficult. We simply can not have people coming into the kitchen, getting under foot, and exasperating the cooks. She is sure that I understand. Do I understand? And she stands there in front of me, in her faded gown and gimcrack jewelry, insisting on my capitulation. Where is Rachmilevich? The ground has opened and swallowed him!
    I meet her eyes. The nerve of her! She has no right to treat me this way, and she knows it. To take me to task before the entire kitchen crew, in her spindly, affected voice. After I had felt sorry for the woman, had acknowledged her humanity, had hoped that people would come to like her! As if I had ever asked for special consideration before now. If anything I have gone out of my way to make life easy for the kitchen people, not to impose upon them with my special needs, to be self-effacing and even self-sacrificing, because I feel that I am here on sufferance, that I cannot allow myself to be treated as a helpless invalid who requires the care of a full-time nurse or of someone like Ida who is devoted to me…
    I want to give her a piece of my mind. Do I have the right to? A little voice whispers, You may do so, my girl, and have the pleasure of it, but you will lose the chance to see what is in you, to get to the bottom of it, to work on yourself—which is why you are here.
    A confused struggle ensues within me. In the end I say nothing, simply bow my head. She stalks away, rigid and graceless as a stick, leaving me blushing like a girl. I deposit my coffee and half-eaten scone upon the counter and go out into the hall. Near to tears and grateful that at least there is no one about, I mount the stairs slowly and with many pauses and at last attain the sanctuary of my room.
    I creep to my chair and stare with unseeing eyes out of the window. What is to be gained from such a struggle? What does it all mean? Isn’t it simply a futile asceticism to force oneself to bite one’s tongue in this manner? What is to be gained from it?
    And then suddenly it comes to me, through the sunlit window, out of the air, what it means, for me, at any rate, if for no one else. It means that I still lack the inner authority that I crave, the freedom from one’s own disreputable reactions. I could have protested against such treatment, but it would have been a protest arising out of weakness, out of irritation, rather than out of a clear perception of the situation and a sense of one’s own worth. And if I had protested, I wouldn’t have seen that. Now that is interesting, that is worth the confusion, the humiliation…
    But it will not be yours, this inner authority, when it comes. You want to own it, to possess it, to make it do your bidding. It isn’t like that. It is something that is above all that, above all the smoke and confusion, the rudderless turning hither and thither. It comes from a higher level of life. You must put yourself at its disposal. You must sacrifice all pettiness for it, all evasion and deception. This is hard; it feels like loss of self, loss of self-respect even. But it is what gives self-respect. You have to have faith in the existence of that which is higher than life. And then there is really no loss of self or of anything valuable, but the presence of something in you that can take command, that is worthy of respect, that can exercise authority and compassion both.
    Have faith! Only then will it come…


Saint Pierce

My wife and I were having a familiar argument: she was singing her Needy song, I my Angry song. Suddenly I was aware that she had simply dropped it: she wasn’t singing any more. “Are you still angry?” she said to me. “No,” I muttered, through clenched teeth. She began to laugh; she could see very clearly what was going on with me. “Why don’t you just—stop pretending?” she said. So I did. I told her just what I thought of her Needy song and what I thought of her dropping it like that and what I thought of the cool, calm, and collected look on her face. And as I yelled, I began to hear the sound of my own voice, the voice of a bad actor, reaching for an emotion that wasn’t his, struggling to take himself seriously. Once I saw this, my Angry song fell to the ground. I burst out laughing. We both had a good laugh, and that was the end of the argument.
   But the real punch line came a few seconds after I’d wiped the tears from my eyes and taken a deep breath. I suppose I was congratulating myself. I’d managed—with a little help from Susan—to experience my anger and not to take it so seriously. But in the next instant that anger was beside the point. I saw that I was really identified with the tight-lipped saint my wife had teased, the person who said he wasn’t angry. That was the person I believed myself to be, the person I had to be at all costs—cool, calm, and collected, in spite of all the indications to the contrary—and it was terrifying to see, if only for an instant, that it was a lie. I felt that my world, my conception of myself, had been turned upside down. I had gone forth to encounter the demon Anger and to wrestle it to the ground if I could. But the real enemy, the pretender, the liar—was St. Pierce.
    I struggled for years to separate myself from negative emotions like anger by opposing them with an effort of attention. I hoped that something new would enter to resolve this opposition, a sense of freedom or detachment that I called separation. The alternative was that the emotion would eat me up alive, that I would be nothing but emotion, completely identified. But then I saw that instead of working with emotion, I was just trying to keep it down, that my attempt at separation was really a kind of repression—a refusal to acknowledge the presence of unwelcome feeling in myself. As long as repression masqueraded as work, there was no hope of seeing what was in me, no hope of real separation.
   Once I realized this, I tried to encourage emotion to come forth from its hiding place, and my work was to feel it, to accept it, to be present to it with as much force as I could muster. This is the essential foundation for my work. But the true beginning came when I saw the persona that controlled the mechanism, the ‘I’ that tried to be above feeling—the plaster saint.
   A paradox: You can’t separate from emotion if you’re determined to keep it at arms’ length.


Stage Fright

The classroom is a very fruitful place for me to work, though tremendously difficult, since I suffer from a sort of stage fright in regard to teaching that makes it very hard for me to bring any inner work with me. A former student described me as “organized to a fault,” and because of my determination to stick to my agenda I never know what’s really going on in the classroom, whether my students are hanging on my every word or stupefied with boredom or floating somewhere in between. Stop and smell the roses, you may say. But that’s where the stage fright comes in. Underlying the highly organized agenda—is fear. I’m afraid to see that I’m not the teacher I imagine myself to be.
   I’m laboring through a late-semester meeting of a creative writing class, carrying the proceedings with my insightful comments and helpful hints—and resenting it mightily. This is the moment to introduce an inner effort, I say to myself. But this means to acknowledge that things are not going well—or at least to acknowledge whatever is happening—and all of my external effort is dedicated to avoiding this knowledge. Working with an inner exercise in the classroom is like trying to submerge a buoyant object: the deeper I go the more resistance there is, the more likelihood of its bouncing back to the surface. But this time my misery spurs me on. There must be a way out.
   Suddenly I find myself in a quiet place where there is nothing but myself and my students and the reality of what is happening between us, which is infinitely rich in nuance and possibility, but defines facile classification. It is a great relief to be in this place, and I wonder what I’ve been so afraid of. I become aware that I have two classroom personae, the one who hungers for the merest hint of affirmation and takes it as proof that he's a charismatic teacher, and the other who can interpret a student's scowl to mean that the entire class is a failure—and both of them are equally false.
   Later I thought of this quiet place as the manifestation of the third force that enters when the tension between the impulse to work and the resistance of the external situation is sustained, and I remembered Gurdjieff’s description of "the one who is—but so weakly, so impermanently that he vanishes almost as soon as he appears." The new persona did vanish after a few moments, but I feel the wish to seek it again—as soon as the new semester begins.


6 December: In the Cowshed

   But it was not at all dark, nor did it have an unpleasant smell, as she had feared. There were large double doors, opening onto the cows in their stalls and letting in a great deal of light, especially in the afternoon. And an opening in the gable—intended for a block and tackle, one of the men told her—that let light into the little railed-off gallery above the cows. Here she was to lie, per his instructions, and breathe the air of the place. It was all prepared for her. A steep narrow staircase ascended to the gallery, wherein had been placed two divans, one for herself and one for her visitors. What thoughtfulness! The divans and the floor of the gallery were covered with Persian carpets. The atmosphere was like that of a church—but what a homely and friendly little church, tucked away from the bustle of the house, open to shafts of pale light yet containing corners of intimate darkness, permeated with the smell of the cows and the hay, with the sudden rustling of their movements, the rhythm of their slow and deliberate chewing, and the silent stately presence of the horse, Belle.
   She loved the cows. She was not lonely, even when she had no visitors, because of the cows. There were three of them, real beauties, immense and solid, with rich silky flanks and short curly wool between their horns and great eyes in which you could see your reflection. How she loved them! They were called Mitasha, Bridget, and Equivoquetecka, but everyone referred to them collectively as Mrs. Murry’s cows. How she longed for the day when she would be able to milk them!
   In order to get to the stable she had to pass the pen in which Olgivanna’s piglets lay sprawled beside the massive belly of the sow. There were geese in the yard, and sometimes one of them would appear momentarily in the doorway. She felt herself becoming more and more absorbed in the life of the animals, and she wondered why she had always lived so far away from the natural world, even when she thought she was yearning for it. She remembered a line from one of the stories of her beloved Chekhov, about “the mysterious, exquisite life of nature, rich and sacred, from which we sinful mortals are shut out.” There was such a life, going on all the time in spite of us, as it were, and in the quiet of the cowshed, especially in the late afternoon when the light began to fail, she felt herself draw near to it. It was a great comfort.
   The cows were usually milked by Madame Ostrowska. She was a little in awe of Madame O, not just because she was his wife, but because of her presence, of the calm authority that she exuded. She was tall and shapely and wore an old-fashioned black dress, tight in the waist and bodice, rich and full in the skirt. About her beautiful dignified head she wore a black scarf, knotted under her chin in the manner of a peasant woman. She spoke no English—indeed she was rarely heard to speak at all—but when she came to see to the cows she never failed to acknowledge the figure lying on the divan in the little gallery above her. She would smile and gesture toward the cows or display the milk pail that she was carrying. Then she would frequently stand for a while in the doorway, as though keeping the woman above company, before she went to work. The gray-blue eyes—in which there was just a touch of apprehension—looked into the distance, but with attention and presence, not dreamily or vacantly. A superior face, bearing the imprint of the experience of generations. Then she would bare graceful arms, fetch the stool from among the straw, and fall to. Her long-fingered hands began to milk, deftly, confidently, in response to an unheard rhythm. By the sounds of the milk in the pail—the thin silvery singing noise followed by the heavier plonk! plonk!—the woman above could tell how fast the operation was proceeding. She could see that Madame O’s head was pressed against Equivoquetecka’s flank, but she could not see whether or not her eyes were open. The cow stood perfectly still. She was certain that Equivoquetecka was in a state of exaltation. Why, the cows must experience a super-cow-sensation when Madame O milked them, if they were at all decent cows!
   She knew that one day she would write a long long story about it.
   On days when Madame Ostrowska was busy in the house, Adèle came to do the milking and brought her a glass of new milk from the pail per Gurdjieff’s instructions. The invalid felt sure the milk would do her good if he had ordered it, and there was such tenderness in her friend’s solicitude. Adèle decorated the staircase to the gallery with leaves and branches, and she would sit in the gallery for a few minutes before she went back to her work. The invalid felt closer to her. It did not matter whether they spoke or not.
   But her little boy did not come to see her. She had allowed herself to think of Patrick as her little boy, the very child who had been her secret companion at the Casetta, the child she had tried to draw on her letter to Jack. She knew it was wrong to think of him like this, but she thought that an invalid might be forgiven such a transparent self-deception. It was too cold to be outside, and so his chair-carrier duties were in abeyance. She was pining for him, but when she caught a glimpse of him in the kitchen or dashing through the corridors on some urgent errand, she was incapable of stopping him to ask if he would come. One day Adèle found her in tears. She quickly sat on the floor beside the couch and touched the ruby cluster lightly with her fingers. The invalid was grateful for her lack of embarrassment.
   “You miss your husband, Mrs. Murry.”
   “I miss the child we will never have.”
   She had blurted it out before she could stop herself.
   “When you are well…” Adèle murmured.
   “I will never be well enough to bear a child,” she said. “But when I am stronger I would like to adopt one. A little boy. Like Patrick.”
   Their eyes met. A smile of comprehension spread slowly on her companion’s youthful features.
   “It would be wonderful for him. But how—?”
   “I will find a way.”
   Adèle snatched up the invalid’s hand and pressed it to her lips. She was trembling with excitement.
   “Hush,” the invalid said. “No one must know. It will be our secret.”
   When the sound of Adèle’s joyful steps had ceased, she fell back on her pillows. She was tired, as though after physical exertion. But she had made up her mind.
   There were more good days than bad in the cowshed. And she must not forget the most marvelous thing of all! The white-washed walls and the ceiling above her couch had been decorated in the most extraordinary way by Mr. Salzmann, a tall, haggard, shabbily dressed man, for all the world like a brigand with his cropped gray hair and fierce expression, who was the friend of Chekhov’s widow, Olga Knipper. She had been almost afraid of him until one day he sat down beside her during a scurry party and they had had a great talk about Shakespeare. He was a painter by profession, and he had created a kind of Persian pattern of yellow, red, and blue, with flowers, little birds, butterflies, and a spreading tree with all kinds of animals peering through the branches. Was it her imagination or did she discern a resemblance between these animals and certain of the students? The elephant reminded her of Orage’s loyal and stolid appearance. And the ape—she could not breathe a word to anyone, not even to Olgivanna—but the ape had a comic grimace that recalled an expression of Jimmy Young’s. The hippopotamus! Was it not Frank Pinder in a suit of armor? And an engaged couple whom everyone teased because they were inseparable had been depicted as a pair of turtle doves. But it was all done lightly, playfully, and yet with real art: a little masterpiece. When she was alone and lay back to contemplate it, she felt herself surrounded by summer grasses and the kind of flowers that smell like milk. Was it possible that the loneliness and isolation of the Chalet des Sapins, where she lay waiting for her husband to come in, painfully aware that he knew she was waiting, was it possible that such a life had given place to this?
   Then one afternoon a bulky shadow fell across the doorway, and he was standing there. She felt a little catch at her heart. He came stamping heavily up the stairway and seated himself on the other divan, leaning toward her in the most companionable way, as though it were a long-established custom for them to sit together in the quiet dusk of the cowshed, without speaking. After a while he began to talk about the cows, their individual personalities, their merits and their idiosyncrasies, with the most elaborate seriousness, and all the time his eyes sparkled and he watched her carefully as though to see if she appreciated his drollery. He had bought a little monkey that was to be trained to clean the cows. It seemed to her an improbable sort of idea, but he spoke about it in such a matter-of-fact way that she had no doubt that it would come to pass. Then suddenly he asked her how she was and without waiting for an answer said she looked better. Immediately she felt that she was better. “Now,” he said. “You have two doctors you must obey. Doctor Cowshed and Doctor New Milk. Have traveled much. Now rest. This your task: to rest. Not to think. Not to write. Live in the body again.”
   Two goats were installed in the cowshed. They were very lovely as they lay below her in the straw or delicately danced around each other, butting gently with their heads. They were Nubian goats, and she was fascinated by the strange square pupil of the eye; it seemed somehow a violation of the natural order of things.
    When he came again, it was with Adèle, and he proceeded to show her how to milk the goats. He sat on the stool, seized one of the goats, and swung its hind legs across his knees, so that it was supported only on its front legs and was therefore quite helpless. She knew that this was the way Arabs milked, and he looked very like one, squatting on the stool, with his shaved head and powerful thighs and shoulders. Adèle stood behind him and cast a look of consternation into the gallery; she was not accustomed to manual labor, and she was away from home for the first time. Then it was her turn. The goat escaped from her, and he had to retrieve it. Finally she got the knack of it. He watched her for a while and professed himself satisfied.
   When Adèle had left with her half-filled pail, he came up the stairs and sat on the divan. Philos followed him and flopped down at his feet. He tugged at its ears, and it tried halfheartedly to bite his hand. Grinning he watched it for a while until it began to whine. Then he hushed it and turned to her.
   “You like the stable? Is better than the Ritz?”
   “I love it here,” she said, grateful for the opportunity to show her appreciation. “I feel that it is better for me to breathe the air of this cowshed than to have the attentions of all the doctors in the world! And I love to be close to the animals.”
   It was a long speech for her, and her excitement made her a little breathless. He continued to look down at the dog, which was now resting its muzzle on his boot.
   “Dog and horse are special animals,” he said. “Sometimes true of cow also. Is necessary to treat animals with kindness, especially dog. Hey, Philos?”
   He looked up at her.
   “With kindness,” he repeated. “Comes from kin, family, the same kind. Means to treat like self.”
   He tilted back his head until he was looking at Mr. Salzmann’s bestiary and remained in this attitude for at least a minute.
   “Man is a three-centered being,” he said finally, “with body, mind, and heart. Animals have only two centers, cannot acquire a third brain and become like man. But for this reason, is necessary always to treat animals, especially old dog, with kindness. Because even though he knows that he cannot become like man, in his heart a dog—and horse and sometimes cow—who associates with man wishes to become like man. Is very sad thing to wish for the impossible. You look at a dog and you always see in his eyes this sadness—because he knows is not possible for him, but still he wishes. And all because of man. Man has corrupted such animals by trying to make them human. For this reason,” (he paused to look in her eyes), “always be kind.”
   She felt the tears come because he had articulated something she had always sensed, the sadness in the eyes of the so-called dumb animal, and the embarrassment she had felt in the presence of some of her friends’ pets, the feeling that here was a creature degraded by its contact with humans.
   “I have two cats,” she whispered. “Wingley and Athenaeum. But I have never felt—”
   He waved his hand dismissively.
   “Cat is different, has respect for self. If you try to mistreat, cat will bite or scratch or run away. Is proper for cat to be like that. Cannot be spoiled by man. But cannot wish either, like old dog.”
   He got to his feet with a sigh and padded away over the carpets, Philos at his heels.
   But sometimes she was depressed, even in the company of the cows. It was intensely cold in the mornings in her bare little servant’s room, and although she hardly noticed the disorder of the house and the coming and going outside her door, she was longing for some real change—and for beauty. She had almost decided to ask him to let her go away until the weather got warmer. She had not confided to anyone what she was thinking, not even to Olgivanna, certainly not to Jack. She knew in advance what Olgivanna would say: to reveal her lack of faith to Olgivanna would be to vanquish the idea of leaving. But it would be an empty victory, since she would not have come to it of herself. What was to be done? She could summon Ida to her: Ida would come. But where would they go and under what conditions? How would they live with each other? It was impossible. And how could she bear a separation from Patrick? She would stay because she had no choice. It was the only course open to her, and therefore no credit was due to her for having chosen it.
   His appearance in the doorway only made her feel the more miserable, as though he might be able to guess at the traitorous thoughts that were going through her mind. He took his seat on the divan as usual.
   "You have a question?"
   She became terribly agitated, and her mind was a complete blank. She needed help—but what kind of help? How could she know? She could not think what to say to him.
   “You wish for something?” he murmured.
   What did she wish for? She had to think. No, that was not it. She had to allow the answer to come to her from her whole being. For she did wish, of that she was sure, with some deeper, surer part of herself that was below or beyond all the coming and going, all the petty traffic of her mind.
   “Imagine God can hear. What you ask for?”
   “If I were to be allowed one single prayer to God,” she said     He gave a little grunt and shifted in his seat. Was it the right answer? No matter. It was the one that had come to her. It was what she wished for above all things now, to know that her impulses came from that deeper, surer part of herself, from Katherine True rather than Katherine False. But how could that be attained?
   “Must learn to pray,” he said, “just as with everything. We think is only one kind of prayer: we ask God, and He grants our prayer—or He does not grant. But real prayers have nothing to do with asking; real prayers are recapitulations. By repeating aloud or to self, we try to experience with the whole of mind and feeling and even body. Only in this way can you benefit from prayer.”
   She felt herself relax. She was sure that he was about to help her.
   “You say, ‘I want to be real’ or ‘I want to remember myself.’ Is a prayer. But how do you say? If you say even ten thousand times and are thinking of your mother or how soon you will finish and what will be for dinner, then is not prayer but merely self-deception. Must say like this: ‘I’. And at the same time try to think what you know about ‘I’. Does not exist, is no single ‘I’, is a multitude of small ‘I’s that cannot agree. But you want to be one ‘I’, to be master. ‘Want’: what means to want? Are you able to want? With you ‘it wants’ or ‘it does not want’ all the time. Always ‘it,’ never ‘I’. Must oppose ‘it’ with your own ‘I want,’ which is connected to aim of your work, to your reason for being here. ‘To remember’. Must think about memory. How little we remember. How often we forget what we have decided, what we have seen, what we know! Life would be different if we could remember. All ills come because we do not remember. ‘Myself.’ Come back to self. But which self? Which self do you wish to remember? How can you distinguish between them? Which self can help you to work?”
   He ceased, sighed, hunched over his knees, as though preparing to rise. She felt that something tangible had passed from him to her. He had given her a prayer. He had said a prayer for her.
   “You will remember to say sometimes?”
   She nodded eagerly, smiling her gratitude upon him.
   “Oh, yes! Thank you. I have so much time, and I do not do anything, except lie around.”
   “You pray to God,” he said. “But what is God? Where is He now? How will he know you are praying? How will he ever think of you, take notice of you?”
   She had a moment of consternation. But he went on:
   “I wish to remember myself. Is necessary to think when saying each word. And then—if you think—is precisely your thoughts can do for you what you ask God to do.”
   He got up and went to the head of the stairs.
   "Return to Ritz tomorrow,” he said. “Tell Olgivanna.”


Where is God now?

My father said:
God is in Sari Kamish
Fastening happiness to the tops of trees
Making double ladders
So that people and nations can ascend and descend.
In the evenings
He sat outside and looked at the stars.
Nothing disturbed his inner peace
So long as there was bread
And quiet for meditation.

I wished with all my heart
To be such as I knew him to be
In his old age.

Where is God now?
On Rue des Colonels Renard
I sit in the attitude he taught me
An old man
In my ears the sounds of children's voices
Monsieur Bon Bon
Feeling the sun warm
The ruin of my body
I breathe God
In and out.