Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Seven Months: The Second Act

Recently we decided to attempt the dreaded long drive with Quinn. Since we've gone the parenting route with Lucas, we've already dealt with some of these situations that you must avoid at all costs. With a baby under two, it's inadvisable to take a road trip that may last longer than a couple of hours. The air can turn foul very quickly. Quinn is no exception and our recent trip to Mammoth Mountain and back was a firm reminder of this vital truth.

Quinn doesn't have a thermometer that measures incremental progress. She simply goes from a pleasant seventy-two degrees most of the time, then accelerates rapidly to scalding. We'll we made it most of the way down the mountain but about 100 miles from home she suddenly grew tired of her carseat. She started moaning, then proceeded to grunts and bursts of disdain, after that came the baby cursing between cries, until finally plummeted into madness; the wail of the lost. Now, that entire progression only took about eight minutes to come to completion and there was no consolation or games involving cute voices that would bring her from the depths. She had reached maximum capacity.

After a few minutes of pointless shushing followed by another ten minutes of "God, I can't believe that we still have an hour until we get home!" racing around my head, I noticed that Xtimu, our fearless driver, was chanting in the front seat (it was actually difficult to hear beneath the airhorn). I suddenly realized that that this was the best recourse, so I started to chant as well. Then, before I knew it, Lucas started to chant and it wasn't until Lucas began, that Quinn actually stopped her drama to listen to him.

It went like this. Lucas chanted and Quinn stared at him like he was a message of stunning clarity and then she noticed that I was chanting and she stared at me for awhile. It was a weird, kinda spooky, moment in the dark, with the night lights cascading across her tear-stained cheeks and the voice of the universe accentuating each hitch of a sob that caught in her throat. She was mesmerized and it was mostly because her brother was chanting for her.

I've been a Buddhist for almost ten years now and the words that we chant are Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. They are the title of a the Lotus Sutra, which is one of the final teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha (Siddartha), the original Buddha from India whose philosophy is the foundation of all forms of Buddhism throughout the world. The branch that I follow is Nichiren Buddhism, based on the writings of a Japanese monk from the thirteen century who expounded on the tremendous value of the Lotus Sutra as a doctrine for all humanity. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo means to connect to the mystical aspect of the universe that is based on a cause and effect. We do this through sound. Chanting these words help me to understand myself and become in tune with the rhythm of the universe.

For a brief period, I saw these words have a profound effect on my daughter and although I can't recall Lucas being affected by these words in such a way when he was younger, I don't think that it is a coincidence that it was his voice that helped her calm down. Quinn has a special soul (don't we all?). It's very apparent when she smiles or the way that she holds herself. She has a sweet calm awareness that brightens the room. I feel my heart swoon when I'm around her, I grow softer inside and begin to appreciate the small things. She loves kisses and hugs and baths and sleeping right up nest to you. She embraces everything around her with wide open eyes and an eager searching that comes right out of her core.

She also loves her brother immensely. She stares at him with such intensity, it amazes me to watch them quietly at work; Lucas playing with a puzzle, while his every movement is scrutinized hungrily. She adores him and I have a feeling that as they grow, she will be a doting sibling that will do anything for him. This is both beautiful to me and a bit scary, since Lucas is both a sweet angel and a mischievous imp but this is the exact reason that I wanted to have two children in the first place. I wanted them to grow together, to carry a special bond between them that cannot be touched by anyone else. I wanted them to share their hearts from these primal moments of awareness that infuse our lives with a richness unknown, beyond memory. I wanted them to cherish each other until their dying days.

I never was able to feel any of these things and there's a part of me that misses it, though I can't even imagine what it is I miss. That night, on the road, I glimpsed it for a moment as Quinn's eyes searched her brother's face, drinking in the steady rhythm that flowed from his lips.

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