- Low growing small yellow wildflowers spring up in an almost unused patch of nasty dirt, on which more cultivated plants would wither and die. On the other hand, these are never found invading gardens and lawns. There must be all kinds of useful lessons in that, but they have all been twice-told, and in any case are always less true than complex reality. Modern minds wish there to be clear rules and logical reasons, but the cruel fact is that often the universe is ruled by luck and happenstance as much as by grand organizing forces. That is especially true for life, in all its manifestations.
- My views have evolved to believe that importance is in the details. It is the particulars of this or that plant _ not the species but the individual plant _ that meaning comes into play. That is true of all life, and all people, and even my daily thoughts and actions. Our tendency is to think grand symphonies, while forgetting the individual notes of which they are composed. Tiny forgotten and overlooked patches of beauty like this should be a reminder to consider elements, tensions, and contradictions just as much as selected items that confirm our desire for order.
- Like shoppers in a mall, geese more or less aimlessly form into impromptu lines and paddle hither and yon. With all the tender new growth everywhere, it must be a fine time to be an avian vegetarian. Nature in full bounty, plenty for everyone, no worries.
- Geese and squirrels comfort me, simply because it is fun to see such placid and playful creatures somehow surviving in the middle of everything, bringing a bit of wilderness to city and suburb. Although sometimes annoying, neither of the species approaches the difficulty I’ve had with raccoons, rabbits, or deer, for example, or that some are encountering now with coyotes, foxes, and bears. They are a constant reminder that we still share the planet, and should strive to keep it so.
- Seatow looks like a child’s storybook caricature of a brave little tugboat. Its primary duty is to retrieve boats _ often sailboats _ whose motors have failed. Like most leisure activities, using the wind for motive power is fun as long as you don’t have to get anywhere in particular in a hurry. Used to be stranded mariners would have to wave, holler, shoot off flares, or hoist appropriate flags to hail a rescue. Now getting help is as easy as ordering a pizza.
- When we first moved here, everyone said I would soon be bitten by the “boat bug,” but so far I have proved immune. I don’t mind a few hours every year or so on a big ship like a ferry. Generally, I regard nautical trips much as I do golf _ “a good walk wasted” _ without even having “a good walk.”
- On certain calm days, an unsuspecting passer-by may be awakened from reverie by an odor. The dense sweet perfume of honeysuckle thickly clustering on hedges and fences is unmistakable. It joins other subtle background odors from vegetation and salt tang of the tides. Not all scents are pleasant _ car exhaust, exposed mud flats, decaying fish die-offs, or bags of clams inexplicably set by the side of the road during high heat. All form part of the unconscious fabric of existence to certify that we are awake and not dreaming.
- My sense of smell is woefully worse than that of my wife; I taste less accordingly. But even I was brought up short by this pleasant cloud emanating from otherwise subtle flowers. Along the breezy harbor, such olfactory intensity is rare, since any concentrations are usually rapidly dispersed by a strong clean wind fresh off the sound. I strive to remember that not all of what I experience is sight and sound, not all of who I am is logic and words.
- Wonderful new blooms appear each day. This catalpa blossom, by itself, would probably win prizes at some winter shows. But it arrives in clusters, often high up, and kind of disappears into a general impression of a big tree with white flowers. Only by pausing and looking intently is full beauty revealed.
- Of necessity, I used to rush around as much as anyone else. Ours is a culture which rewards activity and I spent much of my life half-blinded watching goals. I do not regard that as a waste, just a different period, and I am now fortunate to be able to spend more time in appreciation. I admit that my body and hormones are also less likely to rebel during meditation (or even demand it), possibly to the good, but good or bad a fact to which I must adapt.
- Most folks drive along this road around forty miles an hour, concerned primarily with not hitting other people, going off the rails, or running into parked cars. Some even slow down a bit to take in the view. Even pedestrians are often so wrapped up in inner clamor that they merely scan the horizon, enjoy vessels bobbing on the waves, once in a while take a picture of some striking panorama. But few take any moments to study the infinite small miracles of which this is all composed. Such as this lovely nightshade plant, with its intricate flowers of purple and gold ready to start becoming brilliant red berries. Or the two beetles going at it desperately on a leaf, unaware of the prying camera.
- I try to be aware of small details, but of course that is impossible and overwhelming and, in the end, just as futile as ignoring them altogether. I want to gaze on the panoramas too. And I have my own tumultuous inner thoughts _ such as thinking about what I may write here _ threatening always to drown out my immediate perceptions. Life and consciousness are complicated and marvelous and only when I start taking any of it for granted am I truly becoming lost.
- The rose family is blooming profusely, boats float densely, people anxiously enjoy a perfect day here or there. Each season in the Northeast year by year is a little different, some with more or less rain, more or less cold, more or less cloud cover. This one has been pretty cool and quite dry. But more and more, everything is ready and primed for use as solstice and the Fourth of July loom. Soon vacations will explode, beaches will be packed, sails will unfurl, schools will empty, businesses will slip into semi-dormancy. Even in a 24×7 world, old customs die hard.
- I’m as impatient as the next guy. Where are the hot days, when will the water warm up? I try to be in tune with the seasons, but seasons have their own varying rhythm and I rush ahead. A cold damp day now, for example, would have been a welcome blast of heat back in February. But my expectations are already slipping into late July, while the meteorology acts like early May.
3 thoughts on “Primed!”
So interesting to read that now you feel that the importance of life is in the details. Having recently read your personal “Tour de France” memoir you were more obsessed with the big picture: What do I have to contribute to the world that hasn't already been done so much better than my attempts? Where am I going and when will I get there? Will this trip be a turning point in my life, or not? I don't know about you, but I for one am so glad to let go of all those probing questions while I stop to smell the roses.
Well, I do think there are big differences as we age. I am not the person I was, exactly, nor should I be. Probably an outlook such as I have now would have been totally inappropriate for a someone in their twenties.
Perhaps. But then there are geniuses who do both…like Darwin.