Sunday, June 22, 2008

All of Summer in a Moment

The mind ebbs, the mind flows.  It disappears, reappears, and then is gone again.  It lifts, descends, and sometimes just runs on some kind of blank autopilot for hours at a time.  

I woke up disoriented and cranky this morning, with a headache and a nagging thought to make the day productive, but no natural inclination to actually do so.  I lounged, sleepy and disheveled in my messy apartment, medicating my sour mood with Star Trek until I finally forced myself to get some exercise.  

I maintain that there is nothing so consistently effective a mood enhancer as exercise, preferably regular exercise in an outdoor, if not natural, environment.  If only I could truly absorb this wisdom into my bones, I would be out the door first thing every morning.  A day is always the better for it.  But no, I am lazy, and sometimes go days without exercising.  

But today, after much internal bargaining, I finally got my hands to lace up my running shoes and I hit the pavement.  Unfortunately, I really wasn't feeling it today.  In the humidity I wilted quickly and each step hit the ground with a discouraging, flat thud.  I was sweating profusely, a heavy breakfast from two hours before felt very much with me, and the music on my ipod seemed histrionic and pretentious (Shearwater's Palo Santo - though I may still become a convert).  I forced myself along a picturesque route by the Charles river, crossed the west Watertown bridge and finally let my determination go as I came back along the north bank: I stopped running and started walking. I also pulled my headphones away from my ears.  

Thunder was rumbling in the distance and the sky was turning gray.  A cooler wind passed over me and I watched a yellow warbler fly across the path to perch in a nearby shrub.  I continued walking, listening to the ominous sounds of the heavens and watching the water flow along with my steady pace.  A part of me was disappointed with my effort, but the weather was changing and my mind was charging from the electricity in the air.  A few sprinkles came down and as I turned onto a small pedestrian bridge to cross back over to the south side the rain began to fall in earnest, big heavy drops in concert with wide rumblings of thunder and a wind that sent a cascading patter of tiny waves over the flat expanse of the river.  A group of 25 geese were floating along a verdant stretch of lily pads, unperturbed by the sudden squall, and a red-winged blackbird flew from tree to tree.  The falling rain cooled me and refreshed me. 

This was one of those moments, I guess, like with Emerson's famous eyeball: I felt suspended, disconnected, above the flowing river and between the willow trees overhanging both banks, and there was so much energy and flow and connectivity to all that I could take in, the geese and ducks floating, the blackbirds winging, the water moving over rock and weed, the nearby children excited, crying out, the wind and water moving and one with each other, all of it one and so natural, so just, so there.  

One moment constantly passes to another, but every once in a while you get one that just hangs there for an endless second.  Or maybe it really was five minutes, ten minutes; it doesn't really matter.

But my mind, of course, eventually intruded in on me and I took notice of my euphoria.  I smiled and continued on my way, this time relishing the slow pace of my walk and letting myself off the hook for my lackluster athletic effort.  The rain passed and the sun was out again within a few minutes.  At some point I put the headphones back on - I have not really warmed up to the voice of motor engines - and finished the last few blocks home, where I had the good fortune to bestow some attention on a friendly mutt before going back inside.  

That's the end of the story.  There's no real point to it, except the obvious, that the world changes from moment to moment, as do our own minds and thoughts, the good and the bad alike.  And that if a life can contain just a couple of moments like that, then I can't help but feel grateful to have be here, to have been there, to have seen and felt those things, to have watched twenty-five geese swimming along the Charles River in a summer afternoon's storm.


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