June 21, 2022

Waldo! Get out of the bushes! There’re ticks in there!


Forever – is composed of Nows.

-Emily Dickinson


Today, Waldo and I have a markedly different walk, compared to yesterday.  We got up late, around 10 AM and it’s in the low 60s as we hit the trail.  94℉ one day and 61℉ the next — that’s quite a difference.  These temperatures are measured outside of direct sunlight and reflect the temperature of the air.  The reason for this is that sunlight passes directly through the air without being absorbed, we can see through it after all, but our solid measuring instruments do absorb sunlight and, if they are in direct sunlight, will get hotter than the surrounding air.  The measurements would not be correct unless we put the devices in shade.

Our bodies are like that too.  That’s why shade feels cool.  As I walk down the trail, I’m quite cool in the shade, but as I pass into direct sunlight, I get hot enough to start sweating.  It’s an odd sensation.  The temperature difference is very noticeable, even Waldo feels it, despite the fact that his skin is protected from the sun by his sable birthday suit.   He purposefully searches out and takes advantage of shade as it presents itself.

I like to pay attention to what is happening to me in the moment, as you can tell from reading these blogs.  It’s a way of drawing my attention away from the thoughts, ideas, and stories I perpetually tell myself.  Stories that really don’t make my life any better – they’re more perseverations, worries and plain entertainment than the solving of any problem.  It’s just a constant narration that goes on and I listen to it as if it were important.  But it’s not.  It’s like a dog seeing a squirrel.  My thoughts flow through my head and my attention is carried away as if nothing else was more valuable.  I’m no longer in the land of trees, birds, flowers, Mother Earth, the trail underfoot, or the vistas of green life in all its abundance.  I’m in the land of self-created abstraction.

But then I force myself back to reality by asking, What kind of tree is that?  Are all the trees leafed out, or are there some holdouts, waiting for warmer temperatures?  How many different bird-calls can I distinguish?  Can I see the birds that are making them?  What does that blossom smell like?  How many of the plants I see have blossoms?  The object is not to find answers to those questions, but to just ask them.  The asking is what makes me pay attention to the greater world outside of myself.  The next step is to pointedly refuse to answer them, which would draw me back inside my head, and to just soak in the experience of the moment. Alas, it’s something I have to do with a purpose.  I like asking questions, then trying to answer them.  It’s entertaining, you know.  But the real meat of the human experience is to just experience.  To smell the flowers, hear the birds, see the trees, experience how it all makes me feel, without conceptualizing about them.  We only live in the moment, you know.  Everything else is a self-created fantasy in the mind.

I look at Waldo.  He’s doing his Waldo thing, bouncing down the trail with a precious stick between his jaws, checking things out and exploring what’s there.  I have no doubt that he has a language center in his brain; after all, he can understand what I say to him.  But I highly doubt that he fills his mind with words, the way I do.  It would be my guess that his waking moments are filled by a flowing river of sensations and, although he can change the course of that flow, he doesn’t translate it into ideas that are a mere shadow of reality.  He lives in the now, as he pursues his constant search for the perfect stick.

Now that I’m retired, I have plenty of time to bathe my soul in the present.  But, alas, I don’t take advantage of it as much as I should.  I have a psychic momentum that tenaciously propels me down well-rutted tracks and takes me nowhere of any real importance.  I calculate, I philosophize, I reason, I formulate, I propose, I fret, I celebrate, all out of habit, and all to no great purpose.  The time I have left in life would be so much better spent in just drinking in the essence of the human condition, to live each moment to its fullest.  I’m retired now and I can finally get away with that without negative consequences to myself or anyone else.  Alas, it’s not that easy.

Waldo, if he’s not already there, could get there more easily than I.

But I keep trying.


Beautiful summer day. So much to enjoy!

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