“Turn left.” The ocean wind blows into the open car window, reminding me of the summers I spent here as a child. Finally, a place I’m familiar with.
My doppelganger looks over at me, pointedly.
I look back down at the map given to me by Headquarters. “I know it’s not the directions they gave us, but this is the quicker way.”
She shrugs and turns.
We quickly reach a roadblock, the wall of a new neighborhood that wasn’t here before. I should have known. Things change. The doppelganger turns around wordlessly and takes the sheet of directions from my hands.
I had a run of good writing recently. Each day gave me a block of two hours, when the babysitter had time between classes, and my other part-time job started later. That lasted until this week. Now, unfortunately, the babysitter has found a summer job, so she’s only available in the evenings when I have no energy to write, and I can’t find anyone else who can work those two hours in the day. Once I do, I can get back into routine. Until then, these interviews are all the writing I can do.
We arrive at the water’s edge, where a single figure stands on the rocks, gracefully juggling two large golden coins. Waves and foam wash up against his pants legs. Behind him, two ships battle the wild surf, which tosses them forward and back; it is impossible to tell if they will succeed or succumb.
The man on the rocks doesn’t seem to be bothered by the chaos. He grins and waves when he sees us, juggling both plate-sized coins with one hand, then resuming the two-handed toss.
When the car stops, I jump out, and immediately fall on my face.
“Watch the ground,” calls my subject, cheerfully.
The ground is, indeed, moving. I had thought it was the ocean washing up against the man, but instead, he is moving, the ground is moving, crashing against the ocean. Vertigo overwhelms me and I fall again. “I thought I knew this place!” I call out. “What’s going on? Why can’t I find my footing?”
He just laughs and helps me up. “Don’t try to move forward by looking back,” he says.
“What do you mean?” I ask, breathless.
He calls out. “Find your center!”
I struggle to stand, wondering what that could mean. All I can imagine is the center of my physical body, right above my navel. Somehow, focusing there allows me to balance.
“Ha! You’re right!” I call out. I look back at my doppelganger, waiting in the driver’s seat, and instantly fall again. She just shakes her head.
My subject laughs and walks over to me, still juggling.
“Finding my center,” I say, struggling to stand up. Just then the ground lurches again, and I fall to my hands and knees.
“Now you must find your feet,” he says.
“I thought I had to find my center.”
“Ah, but the ground shifted. Time changes all things. Find your feet.”
I focus on my feet, and now I can balance. For a moment.
“Do you have advice for writers?” I ask, hoping to get this over with. I am beginning to feel seasick and I am not even in the water.
“Indeed!” he says. “But it’s advice for all of us, for all humans. We want to find answers, always. That is human nature. We want stasis, we want surety.”
The ground shifts and I start to fall. “Jump,” he says, and this time, I listen and obey right away. When I land, I land perfectly, and feel secure again.
He continues. “But letting go of the answers we have found is the lifelong challenge to being human. It is always difficult. But it is needed, because if we do not grow, we are not alive. And how can we grow if we don’t change?” The rock tilts toward the water and I reach out to my subject. He balances me.
In return, he leans against me. The golden coins between us are warm to the touch, the only element here that feels secure to me. Then he stands still, and the ground is still, with him. “Have a seat,” he says.
Finally, I can relax. The ships in the water have moved past the surf, and begin to sail away.
My subject puts a hand on my arm. “There is no truth that is always the truth. There is no answer that is always the answer. You will find solutions, and when you do, run with them, make the most of them, but when the ground shifts again, let them go. Nothing lasts forever. When the dark times come, when it’s difficult to write even a word, don’t insist on using ways that worked before. Look for what is needed right now. Do the dance, find your balance. Adapt. Make a habit of change.”
“Don’t worry. The more you do this, the more gracefully you can handle the shifting ground.”
“But how do I know which way to shift?”
“Pay attention,” he says. “Keep your focus outward, on the here, the now. Observe. Try new things. See what works.” He hands me one of the beautiful coins. It rests across my lap like a bowl of sunshine. Its weight and warmth comfort me. “Trust the feeling of pleasure, of joy. Don’t focus on what you want. Focus on what you love. And don’t give up, for all things are possible, eventually.”
The ground begins to shake again. He laughs, takes the coin from me, and rises, now juggling again. On the way back to the car, I instinctively lurch as the ground lurches. I see a buckle beginning in front of me; I leap over it. Then, everything is still, and I almost fall. Laughing, too, I run, and just make it to the car door handle. My doppelganger, sitting in the driver’s seat, is now the one to look a little seasick, but I feel great. When you don’t expect life, or writing, to be the same it was yesterday, you can have fun with the endless changes and challenges.