Wonder 30



Tia Berry and Mãe have been really cool with me about school. We decide together if I’ve got to go or not. Lately, I’ve had so many things I’ve wanted to do that I haven’t wanted to spend all day sitting in class. They’ve let me use my vacation days.

I pretty much figured that I’d have to go back to school once vacation was used up, and I was a little disappointed. It meant giving up on this mini-goal I’d set for myself when I was a kid after Pai told me about one of his workout routines.

Tia Berry found me working out in the yard early in the morning.

“Why are you so glum?” she asked.

“School,” I said. “If I go today and tomorrow, it means I can’t do this thing I want to do.”

“Then don’t go!” she said, as if it were that simple.

“Got to,” I replied.

“No, you don’t,” she said. “Mae will write you an excuse for today, and tomorrow, you call in sick! See? You can do what you want to do!”

“But I’m not sick,” I said.

“That’s ok,” she replied. “They’re not like real ‘sick’ days–they’re free days that you can use when you’ve got a good reason! And it seems like you’ve got a good reason!”

So Mãe emailed the principal, counselor, and my teachers, and told them I had a project I needed to do, so I wouldn’t be coming in to school that day, and then, after lunch, I headed out to the gym.

Pai has told me about his monster all-night-long workouts. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve wanted to try this. It seems cool to spend all night at the gym working out, then, when the sun’s rising, to straggle home and sleep the next day. What a test of endurance!

That same trainer was there who’d coached me on my first trip to the gym. Man, he looked so buff this time!

“Very observant,” he said when I commented that it looked like he’d be working out. “I’ve discovered the optimal proportion of rest, reps, and nutrition! And, I’m happy to pass on to you everything I’ve learned!”


The trainer gave really good tips. “Breathe,” he said. “Get in the zone!”

It was really easy to get in the zone, somehow.


I felt like I could run forever.

“That’s the ticket!” said my trainer.


“Focus, focus! Breathe! Don’t look now, but your dad’s over there working out.”

I felt proud to be Paolo Rocca’s son, running in my own groove, while Pai was working out across the room. I got one of those weird flashes, like I do sometimes, that I call genetic memory–it happens when I find myself doing something in the same pattern that one of my parents or Tia Berry did. Even though it’s the first time I’m doing it, my cells get this flash of memory–they know this all the way down to their ribonucleic acid. It’s not an illusion: transgenerational epigenetic inheritance is a real thing.


As I was finishing up my run, I glanced over at Pai. I know better than to interrupt him when he’s working out.

“Two acts are the sacred acts,” Pai has often told me. “The exercise of the body and fazendo amor. And do you know the why of this? It is the breath. The breath makes it holy.”


Meu pai isn’t spiritual or religious. So for him to call something sacred means that it really means something to him. I think he’s on to something, though, with the breath. Whenever somebody pays attention to breathing, that bring spirit right into it. I mean, even the word “spirit” comes from spiritus, the Latin word for breath.

I watch my breath in everything I do, and then, everything becomes sacred. Spirit infuses it all.


The sun was starting to come up, and its gold spun over the bay. I headed out to one of the public easels on the observation deck and painted a landscape. When I watched my breath while I painted, I felt spirit flow through me, that movement of energy and creativity that I love so much. It was one of those moments–I’m going to remember this morning forever.


I still had a lot of energy when I finished that painting, so I got on the treadmill next to Marcus. I tried explaining to him what I’d experienced–this movement into me of inspiration through my breath. I got really excited about the word “inspiration.”

I sort of babbled. “It’s in-spirit! See? Like spirit and breath, and breath coming in and filling you, with breath, and that’s energy, and then with spirit, also energy, and that’s the source of creativity, and that’s inspiration!”

Marcus looked at me like I was nuts.


The morning trainer joined me at the workout machine.

“You’re doing great!” he said. “Good concentration. Now just breathe!”


A few more reps and it hit me all of a sudden. I was bushed. I was exhausted, but I’d done it. I’d worked out all night and into the next day. I can see why Pai thought it was such a cool thing to do. I can see why he thought it was sacred.


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