It’s so easy to forget my place. Oh, yes, you know full well that I am uppity and contrary by nature and will drag my heels at the slightest hint of insistence that I should do a particular thing or be a particular way, even if by the pseudo-polite stealth of passive-aggression. I’m just not that naturally Appropriate. A broad, rather than a lady.
I am well enough educated and naturally prissy enough to know the difference. On top of that, I’m smart and cultured and experienced enough to know a whole slew of ways in which I could and possibly should be a better person. I’m also self-aware and honest enough to recognize that the vast majority of those things are just never gonna happen. What you see is mostly what you get, now and forevermore.
But I’m an optimist, presumably quite the cockeyed one indeed.
So while I have openly confessed to you my many excessive loves–gastronomic outrageousness, all things intense and overblown in color and form and bejeweled wildness, baroque language, hardware store binges–I still believe in my own willfully naive way that I might moderate my urges when absolutely necessary. It’s in this hope, however vain or misguided, that I think I might at least periodically overcome my natural state of inertia, of fixity so granite-like on this planet earth that the mere thought of exercise tends to cause me hyperventilation and require smelling salts.
Yesterday, the sun smiled brilliance on me at such an opportune juncture that I broke stasis. The perfect confluence of a gloriously blue-sky cool day with a lunch date with friends a manageable distance away conspired to lure me upright from my characteristic hunched position at the desk and right out into the world.
How quickly one forgets that said world is rather alluring and full of wonders! How quickly I forget that, along with whatever position(s) I occupy in the world of my narrow influence and contact, I also live in the beautiful, messy, unpredictable, constantly shifting world that is my neighborhood, this town, this part of an entire planet.
The whole walk wasn’t necessarily impressive in and of itself. Recent longed-for and welcome rains have left the Texas clay in many areas (lacking sidewalks) converted to rust-colored mucilage, so I spent more of my focus on not being sucked ankle-deep or doing a banana-peel slide in those spots than on looking around me with interest. Fortunately, most of those zones are alongside the duller and dirtier of the main roads, where there mightn’t be much more than an onrush of traffic to engage the senses anyway. But in about seven miles round trip there’s a whole lot to awaken those dormant senses, too, and to remind me that while the sedentary state may have become my default position it isn’t necessarily the best or even the most desirable one.
Yesterday I saw the sun again, really saw it; felt it brush my cheek like a tender hand. Felt the breeze tug the hem of my coat and run its fingers sloppily through my hair. I heard birds whistling and chattering in their treetop congregations. Saw the wintry silver seed-heads of prairie grasses blink their brightness on-off, on-off as they swayed in and out of shade, and trees whose leaves have finally burnished to the exact same shade of red as the bricks on the facade behind them.
And I stopped partway home to have a walk through the cemetery, where I chanced on the headstone of a soldier killed at Pearl Harbor to remind me that it was the very anniversary of the attack that left him and many others dead and launched the US fully into World War II and the loss of millions more. The cemetery is old enough to serve as resting place too for a generation whose family plots often contain two, three, four children’s graves, as many in those days died in infancy or barely beyond youth. There are graves for those who lived long and fully, too. The thing is, I was the only person in this particular cemetery at the moment that wasn’t dead.
Which pleases me a great deal, I’ll tell you.
And it was an incredibly fitting reminder to me that while I was busy patting myself on the back over having been such an outstanding and exemplary being as to take a measly fair-weather walk, I too will join the hordes of the dead soon enough. So I’d jolly well better get out and about in this wide wonder of a world a whole lot more if I want to see the ravens tumble and leap among the tombstones, smell chimney smoke as it drifts between the sweet gums and cedars, and see that twenty-four-karat sun glittering in the enamel-blue sky like there’s no tomorrow. There can’t be an endless number of tomorrows, to be sure.