Such a perfect weekend just passed. Temperatures in the 70’s. Sunshine and stillness. I planted in my little garden, and filled my windowbox, and cleaned the house, and in between all that I read papers and prepped for my 101 class (It’s a new prep, and I’m on step ahead of my students. I wanted to get a little ahead. No such luck).
On Saturday afternoon I sat in my chair and looked at the neatly swept patio, at the little table and chair set and the flowerpot on the table with its blue and yellow pansies spilling over the edge. The trees along the fence line a few feet away are beginning to bud. Tulips on the verge of opening nodded in the barely perceptible breeze. Happy. Yes. And I reminded myself that I have felt this way before and will again, and in between will be different feelings, and everything is all OK.
Earlier that day, a friend had sent me one of those “Getting to know you” emails, with questions about work and life and TV shows and so on. “What are four places you’ve worked?” “Four places you’ve visited?” “What are four movies you’ll watch over and over again?”
The absence of a question about favorite books struck me. A question about TV shows, and one about movies, yes. But nothing about books. Fewer people read these days. The questionnaire supported the image of a society in which the written word is losing favor. It was sent by an older friend of mine, who didn’t note the absence of a question about reading. When I forwarded it, I said I didn’t watch TV, and added favorite books instead. It felt like a loss, having to configure the questionnaire for me, so much out of the mainstream (for most people except, I suspect, for the readers of this blog, perhaps!)
The last question I also couldn’t answer, but my silence in the face of it struck me as a positive one. “What four things are you looking forward to this year?” Last year I would have said, “Visiting the Azores,” but would have been stuck after that single answer. This year, without a highly unusual trip on my agenda, I had nothing to say. But lest you all worry that my life is without joy, rest assured. My silence settled in me with a sigh of gladness. I don’t need to look forward. This moment is enough. I could say I’m looking forward to the break of the summer (I teach, yes, but fewer classes, and there is no committee work involved). I could say I’m looking forward to everything associated with longer days and more light. But really I see no point in looking forward. I’ve given up on living outside the moment, and when I succeed, I like it. Which is to say that sometimes I slip back into the habit of imagining myself elsewhere, which fuels discontent. In the winter, the dead of winter, when walking the dogs is a frozen chore that even they dread, I find myself imagining a time I might have a fenced yard where they can relieve themselves and chase the birds. But then I remember that in winter I like sitting in my chair and watching the birds eat; I love the pale filtered light and the starkness of the bare branches. I love the the sense of living protected in a small space, while outside the hills stretch away to the sky, and all is austere and silent. And so I remember there is no need to look forward, because right now is enough.