On Being Present: 53/365

“There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.”

Robert Henri

After the St. Patrick’s Day parade, bagpipes and drums, fire engines and floats, swirls of conversation with old friends and neighbors, kids running in the bright Spring sunshine, we walk the half mile back to my mom and stepdad’s house, my childhood home, where twenty-two of us gather for corned beef Irish dinner. A blur of toddler cousins circle the house screaming and blaring a high-pitched toy trumpet. Someone is always pregnant; this year, my sister-in-law. The husbands gather in the backyard around the fire with beers and whiskey. My mom and Tim work in the kitchen preparing the big meal, refusing offers of help. Eventually everyone sits down together to eat, the littlest ones corralled into highchairs.

Later on, my brother and Chris and I are down on the floor collecting one million Lincoln Logs, blocks, dollhouse people, train tracks, and little farm animals. My six-year old nephew, Shane, bounds into the room and asks, “Who wants to go on a tour?” None of the tired adults are biting. Shane tries again, “Who’s coming on my tour? It’s a really good tour!” I raise my hand, “I’ll go on your tour!”

I follow Shane into the backyard. He points to the birdbath, “pool of doom!” We head further down the yard and he points to the fence, where a large hole and, above it, a weatherworn wooden mask, are obscured by the bushes. “Hole of doom! Mask of doom!” When did those get there? Next we venture under the treehouse – not too far in though, spiders! – and decide, naturally, it’s the cave of doom. I think of the sandbox that was there when I was a little girl. The rabbit hutch when I was a teenager. I notice the fence is old and leaning. When did the fence get so old? I’m instructed to jump over the hose behind the swimming pool because, of course, it’s a snake. I think about how Shane reminds me of me, of how I loved to pretend and make up stories.

When we reach my mother’s garden beds, Shane says, “This is where we can stop and take pictures and touch things. What would you like to touch?” I tell him I’m interested in those mushrooms growing on the tree stumps. At first he hesitates, then grabs the mushrooms with me. They’ve dried out and gone brittle, crumbling in our hands. We touch the soft, thick moss underneath. Then I pick up the old wasp hive that fell from the maple tree during the winter, hundreds of hexagonal cells made of wasp spit and bits of wood. The sublime geometrical artwork of a tiny insect. Somewhere between the wasp nest and jumping off the ledge with Shane, I realize how happy I am, that floating-on-air lightness that comes from being perfectly in the present. Texture and light, the many microcosms, the way everything ages, art in nature, body in midair, making up a story as we go along. This single moment in time, the only one that exists. When a six-year old invites you on an adventure, always, always say yes.

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