I had, the other day, the need for a haircut – an event that is becoming less and less an occasion with each passing year – an stopped by the local barbershop for a trim. Now, for the male population of a small town, the local barbershop is, for all intents and purposes, the equivalent of a day spa; a place to be pampered (or at least the grizzled male version of pampering) and to discuss the important issues of the day – the fate and future of the local sports team, the weather, crops, the market (farm, not stock), and the general competence (or lack there of) of various and sundry notables.
Now, while waiting for the number 2 chair – general barbershop etiquette, one would never presume to occupy the number 1 chair for just a “sides & back” trim – I had the chance to observe that solemn male ritual of the barbershop shave. Now this is no scrape the foam off with a multi-bladed techno-marvel kind of shave, this is soap and lather, hot towels, cold steel and steady ands kind of shave; there is the scent of danger here, an element of suspense when, at that first critical moment when 4 inches of keen edged surgical steel starts its initial glide down the cheek, conversation quiets in tribute to and recognition of that briefest moment of panic that lights the customer’s eye before fading into contentment as the steel safely starts its downward journey.
That moment of panic, however fleeting, found a echo in my memories – there reflected in those few milliseconds, was the essence of my state of mind during the initial days of my practice. From what had seemed like a good idea moments before the key was put into the lock and the rubicon was crossed now had morphed into doubt cascading over dread, roiling over uncertainty – exhilaration, calamity, wonderment and elation all warring for recognition, for resolution – leaving an intense rawness behind that has faded into the contentment of a journey safe begun.