Friday, September 07, 2012

A Child Of Doing With A Still Mind Of Contemplation

I've slept in this morning, something I've been trying to teach myself to do this summer, making it all the way to 6:50 a.m.  I tried today, one more time, on this, the final Friday of the summer break. It's been more of a game than a real effort.

In truth, I've not slept in nor really had a full-on summer break for awhile, opting instead to keep my hand in the game, teaching a 3-day a week summer program in the outdoor classroom. People in other professions envy us our time off, although not our salaries, but I've finally come in recent years to the realization that I'm not really very good at time off. Sure, weekends are good, but even the 4-day weekends I've enjoyed since June were a bit too much for me. I'm not a worrier by nature, but perhaps that's only because I'm not an idler by nature. I've never been able to enjoy a towel on a beach with a book because then my mind turns endlessly on doing; that's what I've always done when my body lies still except when its time to sleep, and then I sleep like rock.

My wife says to me, "Stop obsessing!" but it's not obsessing. Obsession, to me, is when one's brain churns itself ceaselessly on matters one wishes it wouldn't, but I generally like these places my brain takes me. The problem is that where my brain takes me my body craves to follow, my hands want to plunge in, my feet to take my weight and move to the piston chug of the churning. It's when my body can't follow that I finally begin to dwell on failure and on that even more crippling fear of success.

I like better to be up on my feet, moving, doing, being, reacting. That's why my thoughts go where they go, as a lead, a prompt, a push, and when the body fails to follow, I think, the brain believes something must be wrong and goes into the nonsense of darker places.

Don't get me wrong; I am able to contemplate. I do it here every day. I've wondered if it's time I learned to meditate -- my friends say I'll love it. Then when they tell me about it, what it does for them, taking them to the stillness they crave, I wonder how that's so different from my urban hikes or long, long, day long bike rides where the movement of my body makes my mind so still that sometimes, for instance, I revolve upon the same re-discovered song lyric for an hour at a time:

Chuck E.'s in love with the little girl singing this song.

As I ransack their homes they want to shake my hand.

What's wrong with that, I'd like to know, so here I go, again.

It seems like so much work to have to sit my body and my mind still.

Ah, but you see, that's what this teacher does with the time off that others envy: reflect on this and that as my wife says, as a joke now, after more than a quarter of a century of getting to know one another, "Stop obsessing!" We both know that physical idleness is simply not for me. I need to do, to turn thoughts into action, often against the warnings of my intellect, so I work through the summer; I continue to write here every day about the work I'm supposed to have forgotten for a time, my wonderful (and it is wonderful, and so is yours) brain churning over matters upon which I want it to churn.

For the past few days, I've been contemplating this old and broken watering can as I ride my bike, a thing that is really not a watering can any longer. It's been with our school longer than I. We have proper watering cans, good ones that still have the little diffusers over their spouts that cause the water to fall more gently on seedlings; larger watering cans in more interesting colors. This old and broken thing, in my mind, lives in the sand pit, and that's where I put it, up by the cast iron water pump, a container to be filled and dumped, filled and dumped, filled and dumped until it finally breaks apart and can be thrown away.

And every day, every single day, I find it in the garden, damp, empty, lying on its side. The other watering cans, the real ones? Scattered to the wind. Here and there, full of sand, pebbles, hanging from a lilac branch, balanced on a swing. But this one, this one that I think lives in the sand pit, is always, at the end of the day, in the garden where watering cans belong.

It is not one child who does it day after day, brings it to the garden, because it happens every day, no matter what group of children play there, and it's found its way there over years. I can honestly say, I've never actually seen a child holding it, but there it is, in the garden, day after day, year after year.

Why the hell am I wasting this last Friday morning of summer, a day that is already in full sun and sharp blue sky, a day that will be neither too hot nor too cold, a perfect day to ride, ride, ride, do, do, do, thinking about this damned old and broken no-longer-watering can?

Because for a time each day it stands at the center of a child's life: a child of doing with a still mind of contemplation.

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