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, teacher, and novice scuba diver in San Diego, California. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and was a finalist for the Cossack Review 2017 October Poetry Prize. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University. Her work can be found in Crazyhorse, Rock and Sling, Tiger’s Eye: A Journal of Poetry, The Ruminate Blog, and elsewhere. Renee's blog, LitHabits for Life, explores the connections between writing routine, wellness, and lifestyle habits. Connect with @hayreneenay on Twitter and Instagram or on her website, reneelongwrites.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 The Waking
That day, her screaming was so bad, I thought about it. About what metal and concrete and the slow-fast glide into a solid sheet of water would feel like. How nice it would be if everything just got a little bit quiet.
I don’t have a God’s eye view of my son. When he finally falls to sleep, exhausted, puffy-eyed, after crying for forty minutes straight on his second night of sleep-training, I am still on edge, worried that he’ll wake up, that he’ll hate me in the morning.
Like many writers, she wondered if she shouldn’t give up. Why were we squandering time and money on art that few, if any, would read? The answer, as always, is because we have to.