“Well, as you can tell, I’m 71.”

6 Jul

One time I met a woman who gave me a set of watercolors and instructed me to use it to paint planets without war.

When I met her, she had just moved to North Carolina after spending four years living in a Buddhist monastery, in New York.

She was short, with gray hair and red glasses, and was wearing a pink shirt that said: “IF ALL THE FENCES WERE FLOWERS THE WORLD WOULD BE FREED.”

She drove up to my office in a very old navy blue pickup truck with a door that she had to hold on to to keep closed; she was accompanied by an older man with a long white beard, also wearing a pink t-shirt and glasses.

She asked me about my name; I told her, weaving the story of my name together in with details about my mother.

“My mother named me,” I said, “while she was in seminary, after taking a Hebrew class.”

She was delighted.

“And has your mother’s faith changed, since then?” she asked.

When she drove away the first time, I felt a little sad to see her go.

She called my office about an hour later —

“Hannah, ” she whispered excitedly, “that man who was with me is the reincarnation of Walt Whitman. You just met WALT WHITMAN! Only, please keep it a secret. We don’t want word getting out.”

She hung up.


The next day, she was waiting by my office door when I drove up.

She was carrying a large bag; I peeked inside as I opened the door for her. It was filled with crumpled bits of paper and dried flowers.

I asked how she was this morning; she answered with an outpouring of detail.

“I played Spiritual Scrabble last night, with an alcoholic. I’ve never been around alcoholics…oh, but he’s not always an alcoholic. Only sometimes.”

We sat down at a table.

“I’m from the Andromeda Galaxy, Hannah, do you believe me?”

And then, quietly, she added:  “It is very far away….”

I pulled out the paperwork we needed to complete; she rummaged around in her bag.

She pulled out a picture of a smiling Tibetan monk, and propped him up against a vase sitting on the table.

“This is my guru,” she announced. “He will be watching over us.”

She got up and fixed a mug of tea. When she returned, she offered the tea to the picture of her guru first, and then set it down in front of her.

“Look at his hat, Hannah! That’s how I knew he was my teacher. He came to me in a dream, wearing that very hat, and said, ‘I am your teacher, aren’t I?'”

“I guess you’re wondering about the man yesterday, aren’t you? His name is Walter. We had an ethereal, metaphysical experience together when we were seven, and our lives have been linked ever since.”

“He can be very violent……I don’t know how to deal with very violent men, do you? That’s why my marriage only lasted seven and a half years, I didn’t know how to fight.”

Her face, which had slowly turned grey, suddenly lit up — “He has taught me how to reggae, did I tell you that?”


The next day — the last time I saw her — she came into my office again.

I told her I wouldn’t be able to help her, and she nodded.

“Its ok, Hannah, because it is truth. Quick — hand me a piece of paper, a black pen, and highlighter.”

I did; she wrote her name out in scrawling cursive across the page with the black pen and then, with the highlighter, wrote “T-R-U-T-H” over top of it.

“Keep this with you,” she advised.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I met Obi Wan Ken-obi?” she asked.

“Well, I did, can you believe it? He was standing outside my hostel in Portland, Oregon, and he offered to take me out to breakfast. He taught me how to make proper English breakfast tea!”

“Oh, Hannah, you should have seen us — he linked elbows with me, and waltzed me down the street.”


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