You met Sh’mal with his story “Native Hippie Wheat”. I’ve told you virtually nothing about him, but that will come in due time. However, in the meantime here’s the best possible introduction to Sh’mal Ellenberg: my personal favorite, “Breathing in Mt Ranier”. Enjoy!
Bob Sh’mal Ellenberg
908 NE 115 St
Seattle, Wa. 98125
BREATHING IN MT. RAINIER
Harry was sitting on a bench near Puget Sound with a fixated stare 50-miles away at mammoth Mt. Rainer. He was feeling a connection, inwardly laughing, musing to himself: “we’re both part of the earth; she just happened to grow a bit larger than me.” He wondered if there was a way to make a tangible, feeling, connection, with something so immense. He thought about closing his eyes and imagining the two of them, Mt Rainer and himself as one. So, he did. He wasn’t sure how long he sat there staring with his eyes closed, but he sensed she was as close to him as his own breath. When he opened his eyes, standing in front of him was a tall, attractive, dark haired woman wearing dark sunglasses. She had a reddish, longhaired dog on a leash, sitting quietly next to her.
He was taken aback, since he expected to see the mountain “she,” but instead this beautiful woman. She didn’t say anything and he wasn’t sure what to say except the first words that came to mind: “how did you get here?”
She smiled a warm friendly smile and told him, “I was passing by this bench where I usually sit, to look at Ms Rainier, just as you were doing.”
Harry slid over a bit allowing room for her, “here, please share this bench with me.”
“Thank you I will, but only briefly, I have to take a friend some place soon, but I’ll enjoy the time. I come here often, but never saw you here before. This is a very special spot, how the bench was placed, so you can sit and look right at her and maybe you can feel her too. And of course the plaque.”
Harry was taken aback by the synchronicity of his exact previous thoughts; naturally he felt a connection. “Yeah, the plaque got my attention first. Hi, my name is Harry and this is the first time I’ve ever sat here. I just moved to Seattle from Florida to be close to my 3-year-old grandson. I came here today to celebrate my move; to be close to the water and nature. Mt Rainer was the bonus. Maybe you are also.”
“Well, thanks. I don’t know about that Harry, but I’m Adrianna. Like I said I come here and sit and look at her as if she came down from the sky, not out of the earth, and is here for me to feel close to something so magnificent that it is beyond anything we know about in this life.”
Harry looked back at the mountain, pleasantly shaken by this woman showing up as she did, when she did, being on the bench with him. “I don’t know much about this stuff, but it feels like a healing energy coming from her.”
“There is. I knew something special was going on with you when I passed by. Shep, this is Shep,” as she stroked the dog’s soft, red, fur, “must have felt some energy coming off of you, because she’s the one that stopped and began to stare at you. So I stopped and paid attention also. I apologize. It might have been a bit disturbing seeing us in front of you and not Rainer.”
“Well, yeah, not disturbing, but, well, to tell you the truth, I closed my eyes to see if I could somehow have an intimate connection with Rainier. And here you are.”
As they both turned and looked at the mountain, a man in a wheelchair approached the bench. He was disheveled, with grimy clothes, hair, long, unwashed looking, hands dirty, an untended beard. Harry noticed the smell coming off of him.
Right off Harry figured he was hitting them up for money, but instead: “hey girl, haven’t seen you around for a while.”
“I’ve been away and haven’t been able to come down to the shelter. How you been Charlie?”
“Well, you know, look at me. Life is still good. Crippled, barely any money, no place to sleep, eating out of garbage cans. Yeah, I’m doing about the same.” His voice was gravely and rough.
I’m Harry,” extending his hand, but Charlie just left his on the wheels of the rolling chair.
“Where’d you meet this guy?”
“We just met a short while ago and we’re getting to know each other. I actually have to leave in a few minutes. If you don’t mind Charlie, we were talking and I’d like to continue our conversation in private, but I’ll see you at the shelter, tomorrow night, my usual day there.”
Charlie moved his rolling chair a bit closer to the bench, almost touching both their knees; his voice raised a bit, as he spouted, “so you want the homeless guy in a wheelchair to leave, huh?”
Harry was unsure what his place was, but instinctively reacted, “hey Charlie, Adrianna and I were talking. She isn’t being rude. You don’t have to be rude to her.”
“Kiss my fuckin crippled ass man. Rude, crude, bullshit. I’ve known the bitch for a year, she just meets you and all of a sudden I’m a stranger to her.”
“Charlie, what are you doing? Yeah, I help out at the shelter and have helped you, but I have a life outside of there.”
Shep, being protective began a slow, deep, growl; got on her feet hearing Adrianna’s tone, and stood closer to her mistress staring at Charlie.
“Oh, now your bitch dog is going to protect you from the gimp in a wheelchair?”
“Yeah, she does protect me and I think for you to be safe, you might want to back away a bit.”
“Oh yeah, and what if I push myself right up between your legs?” And as he spoke he pushed his chair closer into her.
Shep didn’t hesitate a beat, but gave a sharp, growl, and grabbed onto Charlie’s pant leg.
Adrianna pulled sharply on Shep’s leash raising her voice, “Shep, no, don’t. Back off. Let go.”
Harry stood up right away, feeling the tension suddenly raising. “Hey man, back away from the bench. This is getting crazy.” He automatically went behind the wheelchair and began to pull Charlie away.
“Hey, what the fuck you doing man, grabbing my chair. I’ll show you how crazy this can get,” as he pulled a switchblade out of his jacket sleeve and began waving it around as the blade came shooting out, jabbing at Harry’s hand on the handles of the chair.
The blade grazed Harry’s hand as he instinctively pulled it off the handle. “Shit man you cut me. Okay, man, where you want this to go,” Harry yelled into Charlie’s face?”
“No place man, I don’t want it to go no place,” as he backed his rolling chair away from the bench, as Shep’s growl and teeth were right back at Charlie’s feet.
“You better keep moving away Charlie, because I won’t be able to keep her from tearing you up. Put the knife away and keep going. How’s your hand Harry?”
“It’s okay, it just nicked me a bit. Man, what’s with your anger, man. You need some help.”
“Yeah, I need a lot of help, you gonna give it to me? I’ve been needing help since Nam and here I am, a fucked up, angry, gimp, Vet. He turned his rolling chair around, rolling off in the direction he came from.
“Whew, I used to work in a ghetto school in Miami and dealt with a lot of angry erratic behavior, but I seldom saw anyone explode so fast. He reminded me of kids on meth.”
“I’m sorry. I was a bit surprised to see you intervene so quickly. Thanks. I’ve known him for a while from the shelter downtown where I help serve meals, but I never seen anything like that before. Most of the time he’s pretty agreeable, although he has an angry temperament.” As she was talking she pulled a handkerchief out of her purse. “Here put this on the cut. It’s doesn’t look too deep.”
“Thanks. “Yeah, he’s right on the edge. You think I can pet Shep?”
Shep had come close to the bench again, laying her head on Adrianna’s feet. “Yeah go ahead, she’s okay now.”
“Good girl, Shep, good girl,” Harry whispered as he rubbed his hand down her smooth, soft, back.
As they both sat back to relax, their hands came together on the bench. “I have a suggestion,” Adrianna said,” as she took off her glasses and looked at Harry.
What’s that?” Harry responded with a lighthearted chuckle.
“I think we should sit here and resume breathing in the energy of Ms Rainier.”
As she said this they both looked down at the plaque embedded in the cement in front of the bench:
Know You Are Loved