all of the selves we Have ever been
“The air between us is not empty space.”
I am an early bird. I love seeing the day in its infancy and experiencing the way the world feels in the first morning hours as the sun takes its place in the sky. The air is cool and fresh and filled with hope. World peace seems possible and brotherly love comes easily in this time of leisure and enthusiasm before rush hour traffic begins.
I leave my apartment for the shared-use path outside my door. As my feet hit the pavement, I feel a jolt of anticipation. Soon, I begin to pass other early birds jogging, biking, and walking. They are a friendly flock. Even speeding by on their bicycles, they nod their heads or shout “good morning!” With the children grown and out of the house, these cheery good mornings fill a void in me that is tender. I look for the familiar faces that I share this path with each morning. There is reassurance here, a sense of belonging. Each day there are new faces, and I wonder, will I see them tomorrow?
When I reach the corner, I step off the path to walk a few laps around the parking lot of a giant office complex. Scattered around this artfully landscaped property are small pavilions containing octagon-shaped picnic tables with attached benches. On the busiest corner I sometimes pass a small group of people huddled together for a smoke before the workday begins. In a less busy area, I pass a young woman who seems occupied by her phone or a notebook. We say hello each day. One morning I spot her sitting in a more remote pavilion. After we exchange greetings, I add, “You have moved.” She explains that she likes to read and think and meditate a little before going into the office. As the young woman says this, she stands and begins to gather her things. In the early sunlight, I can see the beauty of her face and the long hair that is pulled back in a low, loose pony tail. Dark waves ripple down her back. “You are strikingly beautiful,” I say as I walk by.
“Do you work here,” she asks me.
“I don’t work here. I just walk here.”
“Well, I wish you worked here.” She embraces me with her smile, a gesture that makes me wish I did work here with this lovely, meditating pavilion princess.
I pass others coming from or trying to find the only bus stop within miles of my home. Sometimes they walk with purpose, but other times, they are lost or confused and in need of assistance. Many of them are trying to find the nearby methadone clinic, their lifeline to the future. A missed bus or an encounter with the wrong stranger could end their recovery and maybe their lives. I look out for them as I approach the bus stop.
With the start of school just weeks away, teens begin conditioning for football and soccer. Teenage girls jog past me in their leggings and sports bras. Their pony tails swing in time to the music they hear from their earbuds. Small packs of teenage boys race past me. They are skin and bones in giant tennis shoes. Youth glistens on their moist, bare backs. I try to imagine these slender, dewy reeds potted in canvas and rubber as intimidating linemen wrapped in cleats and pads and helmets.
I am not alone in my wonder and curiosity. Nature gets in on the act. I share my observations with a bright yellow bird that watches while camouflaged inside a row of trees bursting with yellow-green leaves. A sprinkling of sassy dandelions applauds us all from the edges of the well-manicured lawn where, somehow, they have managed to avoid the mower’s blade.
An hour or more later, I return to my apartment. I feel at peace, connected to my neighbors and to nature, and I wonder: night owls, what do you see?