Because of a little bullet, I found out a few things about bullets themselves and what they can do:

  • I now know of something called a hollow-point bullet. This kind of bullet has a pit or hollowed-out shape at its tip that allows the bullet to expand upon entering its target. As it expands, it slows – something bullet catalogs call “decreased penetration”, and in that slowing, the hollow nose opens wide “disrupting more tissue.”
  • When you pull the trigger of a gun, a spring slams a metal firing pin into the back end of the bullet, igniting the small explosive charge. Gun books call this chemical a “propellant” — an explosive that makes up two thirds of a typical bullet’s volume. As the propellant burns, it generates lots of gas. Pushing from the back, the pressure forces the bullet from the casing and down the gun barrel at high speed – 1000 feet per second for a bullet fired from a typical handgun.
  • A tiny slug can cause big changes, even when it misses. I got that unexpected discovery when a kindergarten boy, Zeek,  picked up a coppery chunk of metal – a spent hollow nose – and held it under my nose (look! I found a bullet on the playground!) Nothing could come fast enough to dam up the imprint of that this object was starting to have. Water came in and we were all in deep.


The boy had picked up the bullet by the basketball pole, pinched it between his thumb and index finger and had come to covet it. Two minutes of clock time in total. When I took it from him, rolled it back and forth in my palm, he told me five times that he wanted it back. I slipped the slug into my pocket and went inside.

Every memory, belief, experience, craving, pain or joy – the flow of all of these things adds to what Robina Courtin refers to as an ever growing river that you could call your life. All things go in, nothing gets skipped and everything counts. As she once said to me: “You are the creator of yourself, honey.” So what?

In Zeek’s case, I’m guessing that the bullet got in deep. Maybe not, but time will tell. His mother asked him question after question – where had he found it, why had he picked it up, who else knew that he had it. He even got a hit of momentary celebrity among his classmates. I kept the slug, but he got his wish in a different way.

I can’t know how small events in childhood will play out. Imagine yourself in the river Robina refers to, one that extends up and down stream for miles, filled with everything you have ever known, said or thought. Stepping out of or turning back a river so wide – neither is among the available choices. Do we come to a point where we lift our feet from the sandy riverbed and let the current carry us out?

Zeek brings to mind my own drift downstream. What an adventure! May my turns be merciful ones. If the terms of that drift can change, the change will not come from what I know, but from what I can’t yet imagine. I’m grateful for circumstances that buy me time to wise up so that I can approach what comes with my head up, even if I’m in deep.




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