The Little Car that Could

September 4th, 2019

Sally has a Kia. I don’t know what model it is. I know is that it’s a small four-door. I also know that it is clean and well-maintained. The Kia has a few years on it. I figured that out when I saw the faded sticker on the back that said “Environmentalists for Obama”.

Karin and I met Sally the day after the land purification ceremony. Senji had arranged for for the participants to make a day trip to the Olympic National Park. The timing was good, since that day was the birthday of the National Park system, and entrance into the park was free. Most of the people involved in the excursion were visiting Buddhist monks and nuns, and a few stray lay people, like Karin and myself. We loaded up in four or five cars and left the Ground Zero Center at Poulsbo at 9:00 AM.

Karin and I rode with Sally. So did Sawada, the monk from Los Angeles. We drove to Hurricane Ridge in the national park. Poulsbo is close to sea level. Hurricane Ridge is not. To reach that place in the mountains requires a long, tortuous ride along steep, winding roads. The park facility is at an elevation of 5242 feet. At Hurricane ridge a person can have a truly breath-taking view of the Olympic Mountains. I usually hesitate to use the word “awesome”, but in this case, it is the only word that fits. Pictures cannot capture the majesty of the view from the ridge. It can only be appreciated in person.

As we drove up to the ridge, Sally noticed a funny smell coming from the car. Sawada noticed it too. Reluctantly, I acknowledged the odor. To me it smelled like hydraulic fluid. I couldn’t be sure. Sally was understandably concerned. Sally is a consistently upbeat kind of person. She looks at the positive far more often than I do, but I could tell that she was worried that something was wrong with the Kia.

I was sitting in the back seat with Sawada as Sally drove us along the endless uphill road through the park. Sawada asked me,

“This car, does it sound good to you? I don’t know. I do not drive.”

I shrugged and told him, “It sounds okay.”

Honestly, I wasn’t so sure about the car. I was amazed that Sawada, a long time resident of Los Angeles, did not drive. That seemed inconceivable to me.

We had a good visit at Hurricane. Everybody looked around, and took pictures. We had a picnic lunch. Eventually, we packed up to travel to another tourist spot in the park, Sol Duc Falls. Sally was concerned about her vehicle. I looked underneath the car for any obvious fluid leaks. I found none, and I told her so.

We drove to a different area of the park, the section with the temperate rain forest. That is where the Sol Duc Falls are located. During the ride, Sally and Karin talked. They had much in common. Sally is an artist, as is Karin. Sally’s children, as well as our kids, went to Waldorf schools. Our children went unwillingly, and none of them have forgiven us for that experience. During their conversation, Sally also spoke about the Kia. She was anxious, but in a calm sort of way.

Sally kept asking me questions about the vehicle. This was ironic, since I know very little about cars, mostly because I am not interested in them. Karin and I have two sons. Our two sons are both gear heads. They love cars. To me cars are just machines that get me from here to there. In any case, perhaps because of my gender, Sally really expected me to understand something about her Kia.

We got to the parking area near the Falls. There is a mile-long walk from the parking lot to the actual water falls. It was a beautiful walk. We were surrounded by many old trees, covered with moss and sometimes lichen. The forest reminded me of Fangorn, the ancient woods in “The Lord of the Rings”. Everything was green and alive and old.

At the end of the trail is the waterfall. There is a large bridge that crosses over the falls. It was on this bridge that the Buddhists took out their drums and started chanting, “Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo”. The other tourists tried not to take notice of the spontaneous spiritual outburst. These monks and nuns chant whenever they are inspired to do so. It’s what they do. I have gotten used to it.

Kamoshita, the monk from Okinawa, climbed down from the stream to the very edge of the waterfall. I watched him do it from the bridge. He slid down slippery rocks to look more closely at the rushing water that fell at least one hundred feet to the stones below. He stared at the roaring stream below him, and then he found his way back up the rocky path. I was relieved when he returned to more solid ground.

When we left Sol Duc, Sally was still edgy about her car. I told her to pop the hood open. I checked all of the fluid levels in the car. Everything was okay. I told her that. We started the long ride back to Poulsbo.

Sawada did not ride with us on the way back. Instead, a nun, Jun Sen, came with us. Jun Sen is a small, wiry woman. I don’t know how old she is, but she is feisty. She has an inner strength that is amazing. Jun Sen is with the peace pagoda in upstate New York. She knows what she wants, and she gets it.

It took almost two hours to get back to Ground Zero. We had a couple unexpected stops. Jun Sen wanted deep-fried okra. She remembered from a previous visit that there was a gas station near the Indian casino that provided this kind of treat. Sally, as a rule, seems to be accommodating to the needs and/or wants of her friends. So, we went on a long search for this elusive filling station. We found it. The place was closed. Jun Sen pounded on the door of the shop, but she got no answer. We went to Poulsbo without the desired fried okra.

Note: On the very next day, Jun Sen sat at Senji’s table with a plate of fried okra. I was impressed.

When we got to Poulsbo, Sally spoke to me. she said,

“I am so grateful that you were with us, Frank. You made me feel so much more secure and relaxed about the car.”

I was a bit puzzled. I told her,

“I didn’t do anything.”

She replied, “But at least you knew all the right words! You knew that much. That meant everything.”

Sally really has a nice car.



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