The act of composition forces my ever-whirring mind to slow to the speed of the pen.
This time warp allows me to see and focus on thoughts, which otherwise streak past like the blurry motion of a speeding commuter train.
Composition is the station and platform from which I can read the placards on the locomotives, and correlate them to the great galactic schedule on the wall.
I slow long enough to realize how, if anyone, I am positioned squarely for such life-changing events as those currently being navigated. I have prepared for many decades a heart and spirit that look to see beyond the occasional storms, grounded in the celestial and terrestrial. At once embracing the limitless cosmos and holding the delicate sparrow in my hand.
Such things are the farthest from transitory, and will carry me home.
In the past I had likened life and time, a lifespan, my journey, to a trail. Many are the poets and songsmiths that have called it The Road. The Path it’s called in real Zen (i.e. not Armchair zen). So too, a voyage on a ship, charting one’s course, to set sail, all have found there proper places in the prosaic. These things rang true to me for my first few lives.
Similes to ships seem fitting in so many ways. One is the captain of one’s own ship, and one needs to set one’s heading and plan a destination. The boat can represent a physical body or a spiritual vessel in or on which you transit cradle to grave. It can be used to illustrate tremendous responsibility, and demonstrate what it means to let it run aground or to be asleep at the wheel. It can exemplify perspective, delineating the perimeters which should never be surrendered, simultaneously reminding us that a great wide world exists just on the other side of that thin hull. A world considerably larger and more powerful than you and your little boat. One does not sail through a hurricane. One prays through the tempest, and lives or dies at the mercy of Mother Earth and the ancient oceans from which we emerged. “The sea is so large, and my boat is so small.” There are a few other useful lessons available under the boat-driving brand of philosophy, not the least of which is (depending on what kind of boat) that under some circumstances, it is difficult or impossible to run the boat alone. (And under almost all circumstances, sailing is better with a mate or two.)
Most of the boat-speak still suits my taste. Particularly the part about the sea being several million or billion or trillion times your size. A tiny iceberg sank the infamous Titanic. I mean, it was as big as the Empire State Building, but for icebergs it was a bantamweight, and if you calculated its size as a percentage of all the glacial masses on Earth it would be a hundred zeroes followed by a one.
Now here’s where my divergence lies within these philosophical premises. The ideas about being the captain and responsible for your boat and your crew and setting your course and all that. Well, the Titanic had aboard a well-trained and skilled crew, and a seasoned captain. No knock on them. It was an accident, and that’s why we have the word. But even a full and skilled crew cannot ensure protection against every threat the world might send your way. And sailing a ship on the high seas or the great lakes or the reservoir is a deliberate act within your control. You can set a course, turn the tiller, raise the sails. You can monitor the compass and the wind. There are forces like Trade Winds and ocean currents with which you must deal, but pretty much you sail across the pond, large or small.
As my philosophies aged like cheeses and fermented like wines, I began to understand that life is much more a river than a sea. (I did sneak in a couple of good similes there.) And we don’t so much pilot a powerboat on this river, but rather sort of raft down it. Personally, I prefer to think of myself as something of a Tom Sawyer, poling my way to adventure. There are, of course, responsible adult ways to ply the river in canoes and kayaks. The point is: the river is always moving.
Yes, you can argue that there are currents in the oceans, or that there are tidal rivers which flow back and forth in opposite directions following the tides. But if you go around with that kind of attitude I bet you won’t get invited to a lot of parties at my house.
My metaphoric river carries me. If I stop paddling, I keep moving. I can zig-zag across the river. I can paddle with the current and move at twice the speed of the water’s flow. I can fall asleep, or daydream, or faint or even die I suppose and that river is just going to keep on flowing isn’t it? Now you’re not ever going to get that from a path, road, trail or anything else that you are required to follow and physically pursue.
I can rest. I can heal. I can be sick for days or go on a drunken binge and that river is going to keep right on carrying me. And whether I paddle with zeal or sprawl in a stupor, I will be brought to the places where the river chooses to flow. Brought to the places the river needs to bring me. Buoyed and wrapped in her caress, the moving water will bring me to where I need to be.
Since clearing the ice pack, we’ve had fairly good sailing to the south. Inspections revealed some considerable damage caused by being iced in, but nothing that will sink us. Moored several months for repairs, the crew was eager to be underway and have benefitted greatly from the warmer air and sunshine. Still encountering a lot of fog this far north, but currents bear us for now toward more favorable climes. It is in the hearts of the crew the greatest changes have occurred. Frozen in, there was nothing to do but pass the time, and soon they fell into their own doldrums, making the motions of the living, but with the eyes of zombies. For a considerable time after we were first underway, they were compelled to keep looking back at the sheet as if it were stalking them. It was out of sight more than a full day before the light returned to their eyes and they could finally believe that one of the longest and most arduous times of our sojourn was truly over. The following day they lingered in the galley and drank too much, and sang. It is the first in many, many months that I have heard voices lifted in song, merriment and celebration. I was moved to tears to hear their joy. “What were they celebrating?”, you may ask. Life.
“Joy in the task of coffee…” Nin’s words rushed into my morning mind.
A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun.
A bird settled on the fire escape. Joy in the task of coffee; joy accompanied me as I walked.
– Anais Nin
I recalled the last line, before referring to the written quote, as “joy followed me as I walked.”
Joy followed me through my morning ritual. The soap brought a lovely fragrance.
The cat loves me even if I’m not giving her snacks. Joy found me again.
Sassy June is a beautiful and happy animal. She looks me in the eye, wags her tail.
I am warmed within by these simple things. Joy in the love of a dog.
The commute today was through a perfect example of a September 25th morning.
Joy shined on me as the sun rose.
Colorful trees and wispy remnants of silvery clouds cast with the slightest pinks and yellows.
Joy sat on my shoulder and reminded me to look out the window. To not stare at the roads or the cars ahead.
To drop the UV-tinted glass and see the real glory of Mother Nature. Joy in color.
At work, my sparrows gathered around the Fun Bus, and starlings joined us for the morning breaking-of-bread.
Joy in the lives of delicate creatures. Joy in sharing.
Small V’s of geese transit the sky. On the road, we can smell the ripe corn standing tall and golden and tanned.
Joy in the honking birds, joy in the smells of autumn.
Sweeping the floor. Looks so good when it is done.
I kid you not, the simple task of cleaning the toilet brought joy.
How shiny and clean the bathroom is. The porcelain sink, the antique mirror.
The soap is red and smells of apples.
Joy in the simplest tasks. Doing.
Once I found joy in writing a little thing titled “Three Q’s”.
Can I really be this happy? Or am I crazy? Does it matter?
As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is joy in the heart of the joyful.
We can choose to be joyful. We can choose to see the beauty and the joy.
It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s free.
“I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed, rather than what I wanted: and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot comfortably enjoy what God has given them, because they see and covet something he has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.”
– Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
“There is something sacred about stillness. The world has not changed outside our bounds, we just realize peace and tranquility are possible, if we make space for it.”
– Ed Lehming, From Where I Stand
“If your environment is poor, blame yourself. Tell yourself you are not poet enough to call forth its richness.”