I'm cold from standing in the doorway to our deck. I opened the door just to see what it was like out on this gray morning. It was cold - a soft mist coming down. But all the birds were singing - I've never heard anything like it - a steady flow of song, as constant and varying as the chuckling of a brook. Junco's chased each other around the bushes, flashing white tail-feathers; hidden finches sang from their concealment; starlings; crows; jays; white-throat sparrows hopped about in the puddles at the bottom of the driveway. A cardinal sat in our neighbor's peach tree, but kept silent. I thought I would not be able to go back inside, to stop listening - but then they all grew quiet. Not the sudden quiet of startlement, as when a hawk flys over, or a car backfires - just that the moment for singing was over, for the time being. I shut the deck door, and returned to my PC.
This makes me think of a spring night a few years ago when I lived in Brooklyn. I'd worked late and was coming home by cab. As we raced along the FDR drive toward the Brooklyn Bridge I had my window open and the scent of trees in bloom flooded the entire cab. It was intoxicating. When I got to my apartment the same scent was everywhere - I'm not sure what the tree was, but the perfume of its blossoms was heavy, thick, and tropical. I sat with lights out just breathing it in for an hour or so, very aware of how late it was and that I should be in bed. But I was unable to leave. The perfumed air was a treasure laid out for me to gather with my attention - or to lose. I'm glad I stayed because this particular treasure was never offered me again.
These experiences illuminate a problem - to really live, to be in life, and to enjoy it takes time, time spent doing nothing except paying attention. Doing nothing is important work, in a manner of speaking - a type of subtle nourishment without which something in us starves. Nevertheless, this sort of non-activity is not encouraged or comprehended in our culture. Lying on our backs looking at the stars, or watching clouds; watching snow fall and fires burn, rivers flow, or waves come up the sand and then fall back - feeling the sun on our skin, the soft movement of a breeze. These are all wonderful pleasures - to name just a few. Slow, ruminative manual labor is another. All very much against the modern current of time management and constant communication and entertainment. We are becoming like people suffering from malnutrition not from starvation but from eating the wrong foods. We constantly stuff ourselves, while growing thinner and sicker all the time.