In The Time Of Your Life

To my friend John Han, a writer of haiku, a lover of language.  A man who finds the beauty in all things.  The man, who out on a bike ride, lonely and missing his family, taped a concert of crickets and mailed the audiotape back to his wife and daughter in Korea so they could experience the beauty together.

Let a joy keep you, / Reach out your hands / And take it when it runs by, – from the poem “Joy” by Carl Sandburg

Starlight filters through my dining room window at 8:45 a.m.  What is going on?  I stand in the middle of my dining room, coffee in one hand, book in the other mystified at how tiny little stars are reflected on my ceiling, my walls, my dining room table.  The soft lighting from this bizarre creation sends me into a state of awe.  That feeling spreads in my chest, warming me.  It moves to my throat, causing me to whisper “Oh.”  It wells up inside my eyes, making me cry.  “No way,” I mutter.  Sotto voce.  Starlight.  On a Saturday morning.  In a dining room of all places.

I run upstairs to grab my camera, hoping that the faux starlight that has created a planetarium on my ceiling will be there when I get back.  I take plenty of photos, trying to capture every angle possible.  Hoping to get the “shot” of a lifetime that I can frame and put in my dining room as a remembrance of something I can barely put to words.  Later, I upload the photos onto my computer.  They are beautiful.  The photos do not, however, show the matted soft tan walls (that have a tint of blush to them).  They don’t create the warmth of the morning sun.  They don’t capture the luster of the decorative marble and speckled glass ball that was creating the illusion.  They do hint at the serenity of the moment, but they definitely do not allow me to feel that inexplainable urge of wanting to close my eyes and float in midair.

I realize I am late for yoga class, so I shove my camera into my purse and put my dishes into the kitchen sink and leave as quickly as possible to the yoga center in downtown Belleville.  I share the photos with my friends, and afterwards, we all say our goodbyes and I head for home wondering what I should do for the day.  It’s an unusually warm October day and I keep envisioning Longacre Park in Fairview Heights, near where I once lived when I first moved to the area.  So, off to the park I go.

by David Wagoner

Stand still.  The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost.  Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes.  Listen.  It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows
Where you are.  You must let it find you.
(from Good Poems -Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor pg. 219)

Today is a good day for sitting in the park.  The cricket, hidden somewhere in the grass, is singing a song just for me.  I sit in the shade and simply listen.

In the distance, children are playing a soccer game and they yell and jostle each other.  Parents cheer, and their noise is carried on the fresh autumn breeze, which rustles the leaves, and ruffles the pages in my book.  I look up and see cars passing by like ants in a line.  Joggers run by, their ipods attached to their arms and the earbuds jammed into their ears.  Are they listening to music or trying to drown out the outdoor noises?  Maybe both.  Maybe they wish to keep out the song of the incessant cricket virtuoso.

Walkers pass by.  Some are talking on their cell phones and I gather information of their conversations.  Someone is tired of never being listened to at work.  Another one is meeting up with a friend for that long overdue lunch.  One guy is making a business deal on a Saturday afternoon.  Everyone’s tennis shoes crunch the gravel, turning the tiny pebbles into dust.

Later, I notice a family sitting not too far from me.  They are having a picnic.  Two little babies are sitting in their carriers.  One starts to heartily cry.  At first I am annoyed.  I’m trying to take a nap under the shade tree; but then I tell myself, “That’s what babies do,” and I let her cries melt into the background noise of the traffic, the cheers, a police siren in the distance and the constant chirping of my friend the cricket.  Oddly enough, the mother’s voice soothes me.  I close my eyes again and continue my nap.

A few minutes later, I look up and see the sunlight coming through the green leaves of the maple tree I am under.  I breathe in deeply and thank God that I had this moment.  No questions asked.  No answers expected.

“For the answer is:  Silence.” – from “The Answer” by Carl Sandburg

Being alone in nature is not like being at home alone in front of my TV or staring at the facebook status updates.  I am not searching for anything.  I am not trying to push anything away.  I don’t want to leave the park.  But, I have to.  A chilly breeze gives me goosebumps, and the warm sun has moved on.  So should I.

Before I pack up, I notice a delicate yellow, almost microscopic, spider crawling across my book.  I want to brush it off, but I pause and wonder, “Where are you going?”  I take a leaf and pick up the little creature and move it to the grass.  My cricket has moved on as well, and I am left looking for other interesting insects that are sharing this seat in the grass with me.  Funny how I usually get grossed out by bugs, and have been guilty in the past of screaming in terror and killing them out of panic.   Now, two ants are crawling across my bare feet.  Another spider crawls across my yoga mat.  A honeybee has been checking me out for the past five minutes.  As weird as it sounds, I revert back to my 3 year old self and say quite simply, “Hello, spider.”  “Hello, ant.”  “Hello, bee.  Please don’t sting me.”  I stand up gently, put my shoes on, gather up my things, and walk back to my car with a smile on my face.

The spider’s children
have all gone off
to earn a living

Even with a full morning and day, I am feeling lonely.  Nothing to watch on TV.  Nowhere to go.  No one to go anywhere with.  I step outside onto my deck to let my dog go outside one last time before heading off to bed.  Venus, the brightest planet in the Eastern sky, is shining brilliantly tonight.  Instantly, my loneliness is alleviated.  Again, that feeling of awe seeps into my veins.  I feel almost as radiant as that big star up there.  Its molecules are as much a part of my blood as I am of that billowing, pulsating light millions of miles away from me.  I can see it.  I can feel it.  I don’t need to, nor do I want to, take pictures.  I close my eyes, and feel like I am floating in space.

My dog barks at one of the stray cats looking for its free meal.  Instantly I snap out of whatever I am experiencing.  Isn’t that how it always goes?  Our ego pushes us out of the moment, and we are annoyed or angered and try to find that feeling again, but it has passed and can never be recreated the same way again.  If you try to force the same experience again, it’s not real anymore.  The joy and wonder are gone.  Like contrails in the sky, however, they linger momentarily.  Enough time for us to take a picture, or to get out our notebooks and record our thoughts.  Enough time to smile and say “thank you,” or to close our eyes and draw our senses inwards.  Then, we move on with our day, with our lives.  These are our truest moments.  They open our hearts a little bit more so we can experience the world more deeply each time we recognize that feeling of simply being ourselves. Without ever being taught, we instinctively know it is the Now, the Here, that is the time of our lives.  We should reach out and grab it.

Autumn Movement
by Carl Sandburg

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sun-
burned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beau-
tiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and
the old things go, not one lasts.