Wednesday, 18 July 2007


hen Jacob hurts enough to run, he transforms himself into the monk. This is a true story about a man, a myth, a legend.

Oh gawd, Bridget. What in the heck?

(It's a pathetic attempt to amuse myself with the words I have. Now I fend for myself and I can prove to Jacob just how strong I am. Except at 4 am when I hear a noise and I'm not strong and then the loneliness looms in viciously and I somehow stave off a monumental panic attack with five of Jacob's journals in bed with me, using his words in my voice to self-soothe and hating, despising every single minute of it.)

When I met Jacob the farthest he had ever traveled in this world was from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia to further his university studies on his way to his masters degree. He was a small-town boy with a wide open heart and an easy, naive laugh. He was sweet, shy and innocent. So, so innocent.

And then he became my best friend. Me, the girl some have claimed will be the downfall of western civilization as we currently know it. Others truncate it down to simply "Cute but Dangerous."

The very first argument between us ended in a trip for him to Australia, when he proclaimed his only goal was to get as far away from me as he possibly could. I was so belligerent, I went out and bought him a big suitcase and told him it was big so he could stay away longer. He laughed and did just that, he was gone forever and I quickly realized the eve of a lengthy voyage was not the ideal time for yelling insults if I wanted him to hurry home, safe and sound.

He came back completely different and not the least bit put off by my antics.

Traveling alone in the big world is an eye-opener. It changes people. He learned to be self-sufficient, self-reliant. He learned to trust his instincts and order his needs from greatest to insignificant. He learned how to be Jacob.

It cemented his thoughts on spirituality and lengthened his skills in patience and understanding. Over the years he'd physically change too, adding muscles on his muscles from climbing freehand in Alaska and then the summits of Kilimanjaro, Kangtega and Acon-something-or-other in a two year span. He stopped cutting his hair and grew a full beard to stay warm, I liked it so much upon his return that he didn't shave it off very often after that, ever.

He learned he hates t-shirts as outerwear, that cords last forever, that shoes are a curse and that books run out quickly so it's better to take a notebook and a pencil because you can sharpen the pencil with your teeth and when the book is filled up you can start writing between the lines.

He found out that God is bigger than the boxes we put him into. He found out man should be more humble than he is and that people should try harder at everything they do and they'll reap the rewards of their efforts so much more sweetly.

He always brought me something beautiful from some place I couldn't pronounce, complete with a story about how he had to walk eight days up a frozen waterfall to get it or climb a tree infested with rabid monkeys in the pitch-blackness of night. The stories are heavily, hilariously embellished when they concern the trinkets he safeguarded in his pocket as he worked his way back to me. The efforts are not embellished, they are real. He discovered he was wanted and needed as he evolved visibly into the man he is today. He always runs as far as he can, knowing instinctively that when he comes home, things will be better.

He once went ninety-four days at a Carthusian monastery without speaking a word out loud and he claims it to be one of the defining moments of his life, somewhere between kissing me for the first time and discovering that it was okay that he hated wearing shoes. He did hard manual farm work there and prayed so much he didn't pray for weeks upon his return, and we had to remind him to answer questions.

He was growing on the inside, he told us.

He always came back from these trips peaceful and rested, fully stocked in spirituality and grace, brimming with faith and acceptance. He comes back as a monk and we get to see the transformation into a better man. Right before our eyes, he relaxes into an older, wiser Jacob, with that many more miles and experiences under his belt. That many more days he lived small in order to be a bigger person. His needs reduced to food, water, prayer and silence.

Jacob says you're never far enough away until you can no longer understand what people are saying to you, and everything you see is new and you don't know the customs or the dress and even the moon looks unfamiliar, framed in a setting you get to witness for the first time, with your very own eyes.

He gives himself harsh lessons to learn by making his trips as challenging as possible.

He goes just far enough away so that he can't see, he can't feel, and he can't touch. And there he does his mental penance, his brain learning to overcome what his body wants to have, his mind superseding his heart as the first in command.

It's a survivalist instinct. It's how Jacob gets through things. I've told you before he is a runner, or rather he was one, having pretty much stopped once he and I became something real enough to him that he no longer needed to escape from me and what I meant to him. Or so I thought. I can only hope that he is out there somewhere growing and changing and learning whatever he needs to learn in order to get through this.

And me, I'm taking my lessons at home, living like a monk, speaking in necessary phrases and boiling life down to our needs and our small comforts and no more than that as I wait for Jacob to make his way home, hoping he comes home full stocked in faith and at peace.

Basic needs, simple wants. It shouldn't be any more complicated than that and today, it isn't.