To forgo a moment to allow my mind to breathe and my body to unclench.
But instead, I walked outside and sat on a stone wall in the winter sun—a rarity for February in Portland.
My mind would not calm.
The air smelled of the construction across the street. I could feel the wind and dirt and fumes from the cars hurtling by. All the distractions of modern life whirred around me.
I paused, closed my eyes, took a breath, opened my eyes again, and focused on a gnarled cherry tree across the street—still bare with winter sleep.
I pictured it gently, slowly pulling water up from the ground, past each of its rings, in tiny, uphill streams throughout its interior.
I imagined this flow moving in a deliberate and slow flood, hydrating each cell throughout the tree: alive and nourished even in naked slumber with no leaves or blossoms.
This grounded me for the moment, allowed me to practice the mindfulness I'd been reading about on wellness and meditation blogs. To think of the race of tree. Millions of years learning strong stillness. Millions of years learning to drink and savor slowly. Millions of years learning to be exposed with no leaves or flowers for protection. Millions of years turning toward light.
Recently, the Ruminate
editors asked the staff to share thoughts on this David Foster Wallace excerpt from This is Water: “Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.”
The editors asked us to meditate on “rejecting the spectre of wasted time or lost productivity and instead, to say yes to wonder, slowing down, asking questions, paying attention, and telling stories.”
We’re living in a moment where a trillion distractions and calls to action pull our attention. And as I sat in the February sun, visualizing a quiet internal network of upward streams, I thought: we could learn something from our winter trees.
Renee Long is a writer, editor, (sometimes) teacher, and novice scuba diver living in San Diego, CA. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing Fiction from Florida Atlantic University. Her work has been published in Crazyhorse, The Cossack Review, Rock and Sling, and Tiger’s Eye: A Journal of Poetry. She blogs in the second person at http://www.reneelongblogs.com
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This morning was one of those hectic mornings I was tempted to forgo my required ten minute break. To keep going, moving, working, doing, multitasking. To not sacrifice a minute lest my attention slip.
Also in Ruminate Blog
I make it a point on this walk to find nature, identify and tag it silently, like an urban anthropologist. It feels like progress. It feels, perhaps, like a down payment on the benefits I’d get from a day in the woods, a week in the mountains, or a night beside the ocean. It’s not the woods, but maybe it’s close enough, I think.
I’m pretty sure there are some of us whose lives don’t work that way ─ people for whom failure seems less a painful moment on a journey and more the destination itself, or sometimes, for me, like the place I’ve been living all my life, wandering in loose circles with my eyes squeezed shut so I can imagine I’m somewhere, anywhere else.
I’m praying for the hurting, yes. I’m praying for the recovery and grace and light to flood where water and fire and pain and evil have raged. But I’m also praying to use my body and my voice better, for my feet to carry me where I can help.