12 Sep Pavement
LAST WEEK on my early morning walk, the dark red color perhaps of blood or a rose stood out prominently against the black pavement. The air was cool as the sun made its daily ascent. I noticed the red at the bottom of the snake’s tail near the eggshell rattler. The rest of the snake was a bright and slightly shiny orange; the beautiful color grabbed my attention as cool air flowed through my body.
I moved closer to the coiled up, motionless object as a runner approached from the opposite direction. I began to make signs pointing to the snake, not knowing whether the snake was still alive and perhaps eager to put up one last fight with an unknowing foe, or if it was dead, and casually drifting through the snake afterlife.
The runner stopped, slightly startled, and thanked me — we’re in this together, friend. We both continued on in opposite directions from where the snake rested. Every day I walk along the pavement to the beach or through the neighborhood.
It’s the best in the morning or at night, when the air is refreshing and the light in the sky is waning or waxing, not yet full and bright, but becoming something new. On my return, the snake was gone.
AS I DROVE from Los Angeles to San Diego a few days ago, I stopped in the town of Dana Point near the beach to go to the bathroom. The water looked absolutely incredible. It glistened and shimmered and the waves were perfect, rolling and clean. The water looked untapped, a summer oasis.
I had to get in.
I parked and traversed an archway that led over the train tracks to the beach. The northbound train rolled beneath me as I crossed. On the shore, the thought ran through my mind: Do one thing a day that scares you. I watched the bobbing buoy — this had to be it — an impromptu buoy swim on an impromptu trip to the beach.
The water was the warmest I’ve felt since I could remember, probably around 70 degrees. It felt like swimming in a pool; one surfer paddled out, and I felt an assurance from him being there. So I went for it. It felt so good to let free in the most natural way to me. But I was scared.
I felt a calling to reach the buoy, but my mind began to run. I was out there in what quickly became deep water. Our mind can play some serious tricks on us if we let it call the shots.
We must make our mind whom we want in our corner, no matter the circumstances. If we’re Rocky, our mind must be Micky, wiping the sweat from our brow as they repeat, you got this kid! in our ear.
I repeated the mantra in my head: My mind is my friend. As the 14th-century samurai creed goes: I have no Friends; I make my Mind my Friend. With our mind as our ally, there’s nothing we can’t overcome.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. To turn your mind into your friend isn’t to be narcissistic, thinking that you’re better than others or that everything should come your way. We don’t have to share everything that comes from our mind.
But we do have to listen to it incessantly. Our mind must urge us on; it must make us laugh; it must make us care. That is what a friend does. I reached the buoy after a late-game push, emboldened by the repeating mantra: My mind is my friend. I turned the buoy’s corner, slapped the drifting threshold of the deep, and kicked it into second gear.
The sun glistened off of the turquoise water as I reached the shore. I overcame something that scared me and continued driving south.
A COUPLE OF NIGHTS AGO, the black sky came alive in rain and lightning as I drove along the beachside road with my buddy Gregory Russell Benedikt. Flashes of light illuminated the rainy sky. We drove along the road through the rain, elated by the abnormal change of weather, although these exciting summer storms are becoming somewhat part of the norm.
I love that so much.
We both saw the same bolt of lightning split the sky in half. That grounds you. The abnormality of nature is the remedy to being human. We try to make sense of things, but life makes little sense. What’s the sense of a thunder and lightning storm?
What does it do, besides impart that it isn’t only human beings which are alive, but the sky, as well. The clouds are alive. The sea is alive. The world is breathing. The orange and slim moon hung over the ocean, casting a low, hazy tail across the water. The thunder continued to boom and the lightning continued to crack until I fell asleep.
YESTERDAY on an evening trip to the beach by my home, I swam relatively close in and simply enjoyed every second. When I was out there, I said hello to a passing stand-up-paddler. We both kinda just laughed at how beautiful the setting was. How beautiful life is.
I opened my eyes underwater and watched my hands slice through the dark green liquid, pierced with evening light. I thought my eyes might sting afterwards, but they felt refreshed. As I swam, I waited for the unexpected to swim through my field of vision. Nothing ever did.
On the beach I read and wrote and walked along the black pavement back home, in amazement of the world and the journey that I’m on. Every day I walk along this road, a unique experience behind me and a fresh one before me. At the onset of the day or the turning of the page, I think about the moment that I’m in and I laugh to myself.
At the absurdity of it, the beauty of it, the energy that surrounds and fills me. Even though I get down, perhaps unable to grasp everything that’s taking place, I have moments throughout the day that make me stop and think. That make me forget and help me understand.
The snake, the swim, the lightning storm, the days and nights of living. It’s all connected. No matter where I am, I’ll walk the street and look around, if only to appreciate the moment I’m in. I’ll stop for a swim or just to look at the color emanating from a roadside flower, like the white with hints of yellow and the pale blues of those I see every day.
There’s color in the world. Color makes this interesting; color makes me dig into myself to explore who I am and what the color means to me. The amber color of the patches of leaves which cover the road. They remind me of fall, of the word autumn. Are we allowed to use autumn on the West Coast?
I ponder the meaning beneath the red of the stop sign and the red of Santa at Christmastime. The ancient colors, like the fading light in the sky. Blue gives way to pink gives way to night, and then the moon shines over us all. In a different stage of life itself, although we don’t know how old it really is.
How this piece of the earth we walk on dispatched from the land and felt the pull of gravity and now just hovers there, causing us to write stories and ponder love and think about what’s up above.
I watched a plane float towards the crescent moon on the way back from the beach; an orange glow reflected off of the building on the other side of the valley. The clouds drifted along the mountaintop in massive plumes of pink and gold and blew me away.
Every day this happens — the sun sets, the sky changes color — yet this transition never becomes less inspiring to the human heart.
As I walked backwards up the hill, I could look at the entire nature reserve which I live close to; I could look at the moon in the sky, hanging over the passing pine trees.
This provides a fascinating juxtaposition, the near and the incomprehensibly far, yet in the same frame. It’s like the present and the future — all we can do is appreciate what may come in the future, just as we appreciate the mystery of the far-away moon.
But we’re here for the present moment. I can climb the tree, as it’s right in front of me. So I did. My mind told me to stop and get in that tree. It told me to be a kid; if I ignored it, I would have wondered why. Am I too mature to climb a tree? I moved through the perfectly suitable climbing branches like a monkey.
The moon is out now — its light causes the bugs to come out and hum in one long croak. This tells us the night has come. The black color of the pavement blends in with the black of night, for they are the same, the earth and the sky, a smooth road for us to travel under the white light of the moon.