July 5, 2022

C’est un vraiment bel endroit!


The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.

-Abraham Maslow


Waldo and I haven’t been off the rail-trail since fall.  Phyllis, although still walking nearly every day, got engaged and is tied up elsewhere and Christine’s interests have wandered off somewhere else too.  We’ve walked with both of them occasionally, but nothing with any regularity.  Waldo and I could venture off somewhere new on our own, I’m sure Waldo would love it, but the logistics would require that all trips be round trips because we only have one car.  That’s not a show stopper, but the truth is, without the good company, I’m not really that motivated to find a new path to trod.  Perhaps, in the next few weeks, we’ll go to the upper end of the Assabet River Rail Trail.  That would require an extra 40 minutes of drive time, though.

Our usual trail is familiar enough that I can walk it without thinking about it.  The good part of that is that I can concentrate on when and how to conjugate in the passé composé, the imparfait and the subjonctif without much effort.  Concentrating on French makes the time go quickly and being on a familiar path makes that easy.  I still take time out every so often to smell the roses, but less so than before the French.  I miss out on dancing with nature and listening to her poetry for much of the walk.

That seems to be a regular riff in my life.  I have a definite proclivity to think about stuff.  I can focus so tightly on ideas and logic that I’m almost oblivious to the rest of the world.  I’m drawn to concepts and ideas and enticed into playing with them and watching how they interact with each other.  Often that’s quite meaningfully productive, in all kinds of ways.  But it does detract from experiencing what’s happening right in front of me.  I’ve never mastered the ability, if that’s even possible, to solve a differential equation in relativistic astrophysics while retaining the awareness of my surroundings.  It’s like I’m transported to another time and place, other than where my body is.  That’s not a bad thing, as long as it’s done with a sense of balance.

While I was working, 99% of my time was spent in that other place – thinking about driving, thinking about how to medically care for a patient, thinking about the physics of flying, thinking about all kinds of stuff.  Then, in the other 1%, I would take a respite to just go out and be with nature, sometimes on a motorcycle, sometimes in an airplane, or a canoe, or on foot.  That now seems a bit backwards.  Rather than working and using a vacation to recharge one’s ability to work, wouldn’t it be better to be directly engaged with your life and the experience of what’s happening in the moment, to be tasting life, and using work to support that?  Live on the beach (or in the mountains, or in a forest, or whatever fits your fancy) as simply as possible and only go to work when you have to in order to be able to live on the beach, rather than fill your life with work and go to the beach so you don’t go nuts spending so much time at work.  Modern society seems to have its priorities all twisted up.

Thinking about this makes me feel a little guilty at spending so much effort to learn French.  But that effort will allow me to have a more meaningful trip to Switzerland.  I’ll be able to interact more effectively with more people there and have a broader spectrum of experiences.  That’s always the hook that draws me into walking away from the here and now.  I somehow convince myself that by doing so, my life will be somehow enhanced, made better.  Then comes the driver that the more time you spend in that other place, the better your life will become.  That digs the hole that sucks me in and then covers me up.

I think the secret is all a matter of balance.  Use only what you need in order to truly engage with life and then do what’s necessary to provide that need.  Don’t get sucked into doing more than that.  In the case of my learning French, okay, do it.  But I’ll do it in a way that doesn’t eat up a majority of my time.  Reserve that for living in the real world.  The world of the here and now.  I may not have that much time left in my life to learn French, but I don’t need to be perfectly fluent in it to benefit from learning what I can.  And the rest of the time, I can be here, wherever and whenever that is.

Right now, that’s here on the rail trail, my attention absorbed by the burgeoning life around me.  French verbs be damned!  At the moment, I have more important things to do.

Like, of course, walking with Waldo.


Covid Garden is looking good!

Leave a Reply