Within weeks of our arrival, I enrolled Daniella in a reading and writing class in English. In 9th grade, she is the youngest of the group, who are 10th through 12th graders. In the past two months, she has read Farenheit 451 and most recently, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Their latest assignment was to write a book review before they dive into King Lear.
One Friday afternoon, Daniella handed me Stein’s book, telling me I might enjoy it if I could finish it by Wednesday, when she had to return it. I remembered the book cover from the Barnes & Noble stands last year, with the picture of a dog’s head on it. Not being a dog lover, I remember thinking it was a Marley and Me spin-off. Not that I had read Marley and Me, but I had seen the movie, which was treacly and beyond believable, so I had no interest in another sappy dog story. But Daniella knew me and, if she was recommending it, I felt I should show her my open-mindedness.
After dinner Friday night, I sat down on our red Foof chair in our reading corner and opened up the book. The first quote by race car driver Ayrton Senna drew me in before the story had even started:
“With your mind power,
And the experience as well,
You can fly very high.”
And then the writer took me on a journey, as told from a dog’s perspective, about his unconditional love for his owner Denny, a race car driver and devoted husband and father, about his wish to be born human in his next life, and his desire to be able to talk and tell the facts behind the story that unfolded. It was a story of loyalty and loss, family and friendship, full of tension and climax and profound, revelatory thoughts about the human condition—as told from Enzo’s eyes.
By Saturday late afternoon, I was on chapter 51, page 278 of the 321-page paperback. All I wanted to do was read, yet I loved Enzo and his story so much I didn’t want to finish the book. That night, I got into bed with Philippe and suggested we watch a movie on his laptop to prevent me from finishing.
Then, Sunday was busy. In the morning, I taught yoga at home then drove to the Tel Aviv Port to take a class at Ella Yoga then to teach. In between I had thirty minutes. I threw the book into my bag, knowing I could finish it in that half hour.
At 12:40 I took my book and a bottle of water outside in search of a bench to sit and finish. I sat facing the sea with my sunglasses on to shield my eyes from the early November heat. At 12:50, with less than 10 pages left, the sun was piercing to the point that I could no longer stay seated so I got up to find shade under an awning. There, I stood and read with tears running down my eyes.
By the end of the story, Enzo is old and ill but still so wise; his inner voice shares with us everything he knew and learned and loved about his master’s profession: “I know this much about racing in the rain. I know it is about balance. It is about anticipation and patience. I know all of the driving skills that are necessary for one to be successful in the rain. But racing in the rain is also about the mind! It is about owning one’s body. About believing that one’s car is merely an extension of one’s body. About believing the track is an extension of the car, and the rain is an extension of the track, and the sky is an extension of the rain. It is about believing that you are not you; you are everything. And everything is you.”
Racing in the rain is yoga in the purest form. It is owning one’s body, controlling one’s mind, becoming self-aware. It is the understanding that when you peel off all the layers you are not you; you are everything, and everything is you.
Steins’ story, Enzo’s voice reminded me of the old adage to not judge a book by its cover. I vow to make every effort to never judge a book, nor a human being, nor any other preconceived idea I have had in my head because of an outward appearance. Everything and everyone has another story, a deeper layer and yet, in the end, underneath all of it, we are all the same.