So the word got out. Nothing secretive, a friend reported they saw me driving, somewhere, sometime.

Bob Kalish observes life from a placid place on the island of Arrowsic (motto: You’re not in Georgetown yet). You can reach him at [email protected]

Someone said they thought my driving just didn’t look safe. Said all this as a soft aside to a few friends and family members. And the subject became the focus of further conversation. My driving record was almost perfect, not one moving violation in more than six decades. What’s there to defend?

But here’s the problem: Once the voice in your head is put on notice, it’s difficult to go back believing there isn’t a problem. Maybe they were right. Maybe those times when I had to move the steering wheel so it didn’t set off the highway’s rumble strip were a sign of something more than a momentary distraction.

Yet when I thought about it, it did seem, in retrospect, that something was different, something had changed. Driving at night became something to avoid at any cost. Parallel parking wasn’t something I did anymore.

It’s one thing to live in a big city with a working public transportation system. However, I live in a town that doesn’t even have a post office, so what are the choices? Walk? Sure, I’m only 7 miles from town, and if I wanted to walk to beautiful downtown Bath it would take at least a couple of hours. One way. A long time no matter how you slice it.

So the challenge is the same as that of the Tibetan monk who was visited by author Peter Matthiessen in a cave in the Himalayas where, because of crippling arthritis, the monk couldn’t walk. When Matthiessen asked him why he lived like he did and not seek more comfortable surroundings in the nearby village, the monk pointed to his legs.

“Ah, so there is no other choice,” Matthiessen said.

“Only this,” the monk said and pointed again to his inert legs under his robes. “Must let go.”

Then there is the story of the man running from hungry tigers. He leaps off a cliff and grabs a branch, but there is another group of tigers at the bottom of the cliff. What to do? A strawberry plant with ripe strawberries is growing on the side of the cliff within reach should he let go of the branch. Which he did. It was the best strawberry he had ever tasted.

So now that I’m a full-time pedestrian, my life has changed. I’m the guy for whom leaving the house is like the man stepping off that cliff. Leaving my home in the woods is like letting go of the branch. Letting go, to be tossed around by fate and karma. I just couldn’t pretend I didn’t know my driving skills were abandoning me. And strangely, the last time I drove, it was like I was just learning and it felt precarious and I couldn’t wait to get out of the car. It wasn’t until a total stranger drove it away in the dusky autumn moment and I turned to go and the empty space where my car had been parked was like a gaping hole in my perception, a blind spot that revealed a bigger hole than I had imagined. If I felt like going to the store for a beer, I’d be halfway out the door when I remembered I didn’t have the means to get there. I was no longer in charge.

I had to let go yet again. The “letting go” is one of the basic tenets in the Buddhist scheme of things. Let go of whatever you’re holding on to and you won’t suffer as much. Open your arms, grab hold on to the branch. Now let go.

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