Being With Erika: #13, “Nothing special”, London, 1994

After Christmas and New Year with her family in Edinburgh, Erika had a few more days in London before her flight back to Australia. The book she gave me as a Christmas present reflected many of our conversations about Taoism and Zen over the past weeks. She was particularly fond of the story about the Taoist master who – when asked, “What is the Tao?” – replied, “It’s nothing special”.

It’s time to drive her to the airport and we are, for some reason, behind schedule. Before I know it she is off downstairs with her heavy suitcase.

“Erika!” I exclaim, “Let me carry that for you!”

“It’s all right” she replies. “I’m not carrying it. It’s just hanging from my arm.”

Then we are in the car and up onto the flyover of the motorway.

I’m anxiously checking the time and calculating how long it will take to get to the airport, find a parking space and walk to the terminal. Erika is watching the planes flying parallel to us on their approach to Heathrow.

“Erika, don’t you get nervous when you are late for a plane?” I ask her.

“What’s to be nervous about? I am just sitting in a car watching the traffic or the planes … and that’s all!”

A couple of weeks later I was very surprised to receive a phone call from her in Melbourne. She was a wonderful correspondent and I am one of several people with a great collection of letters from her (will they ever be published?) but, calls being still very expensive at that time, she practically never phoned.

“That book I gave you…” she said, “…it’s on page 29. That’s what Alexander was trying to teach us. You can’t separate things.”

I found the quote and read it over to myself, recalling several conversations we had had about making the link between Alexander work and daily life. They are words I often come back to:

“All practices are carried out at once: there is no before or after, and no in between.” 1

1. Zen Dawn: Early Zen Texts from Tun Huang, translated by J. C. Cleary, Shambala Publications Inc, London and Boston, 1986, p29

© 2013 John S Hunter

Other Posts on Being with Erika:

#01, London 1985 – Annual Memorial Lecture
#02, Brighton 1988 – Key Note Address
#03, Melbourne 1991 – “Come for lunch!”
#04, Melbourne 1991 – Tea Ceremony
#05, Melbourne 1991 – Jean Jacques by the Sea
#06, Back in Melbourne, 1992
#07, “Where did you train?”, London, 1993
#08, “It’s all the same”, London, 1993
#09, “Making the Link”, London, 1993
#10,  A Lesson in Stopping, London, 1993
#11, Hands, London 1994
#12, “Yes, but you’re worrying!”, London, 1993

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