I guess you could say I’m in love with the world as it appears to me right now. Walking on the street, the sun had warmed my back; now, my back against an Arizona Walnut tree, a hundred yards west of Montezuma Street, the sun warms my left shoulder.
My pants are rolled up, socks and shoes off. I hear birds singing in the red willow by the creek, I see a seven-layered power line that I do not understand. I don’t understand why there are so many layers to the power line; I think I understand why we have so many layers, but I don’t think I fully understand any one layer at any one time.
Never the whole of it.
I can’t see the whole tree all at once, all of the leaves that shake in the wind, so I shift my view from time to time. What I can see at any one time shakes me, leaves me breathless, almost brings me to tears. I fight it a little, the emotion. Don’t get so affected, I tell myself, it’s just the leaves shaking in the wind. Stay cool, calm, collected. You’re a stoic, you’re a man. I can’t do it. The tears come, the way they do. I feel more like a child of eight than a man of twenty-two.
Now the wind dies down a little bit.
I become a little bit calmer. Not necessarily stronger because calmer, though I definitely would appear so to others. But how we appear to others is not always how we are. Usually it isn’t. It takes more strength to show your weakness, how you truly are, than to look strong when you feel weak. The automatic response is to look strong, but the truth is in weakness.
I remove the shirt from where I’d had it, against the tree and my back. Now I feel the bark more fully.
My back is strong from pull-ups and pull downs. Hard against hard, which one is harder? No use fighting fate here, the bark of the tree is harder and will always be harder. Don’t compete with it, don’t try and dominate it. Sit with it, against it. Feel it, as you feel your back. Feel your back against the tree, as you listen to the cars go by. This is a sort of meditation for you, though you don’t necessarily have to use that word.
There is a thin line between being in a good place and being in a bad one. Especially for you. You’ll always live on that edge, that line, or at least you’ll try to. At least you’ll live close. The creek separates the woods from the road, but you can’t live in the creek; you’ve got to pick a side. You can go to the other side later. Where you are now is not where you’ll always be.
You start to go further inward but stop yourself. Another automatic response, this going inward. Good and bad things come from that. It’ll probably never be any different, and maybe that’s the way it should be. But stay present, present to and in the place you are now, the marvelous beauty of what is here. Do not repress the ugliness you sometimes feel in yourself, do not dwell in it either. You dwell and then you drown, though long ago you learned how to swim.
The coffee cup is almost empty. Soon I’ll be sitting alone with nothing to drink. Not my strength.
Apparently the house almost burned down last night; I wasn’t in it at the time. If the house is going to burn down, would I go down with it? Or would I be up at the School of Rocks, the City of Rocks, observing the world like Jeffers from a lonely boulder, watching the innocent settled people take the punishment of the guilty who flee. But though I admit my guilt to myself I can’t stand being told I am guilty. I already know that.
“Everybody’s restless and they’ve got no place to go
Someone’s always trying to tell them
Something they already know.
So their anger and resentment flow.”
—From Mohammed’s Radio, by Warren Zevon
A raven soars in a descending circle around the walnut trees, then flies off over the power line, beyond, down. I feel myself shutting down, I’ve gone beyond the point of empowerment and into powerlessness. You can’t go back from that but you can keep going down. You go down and lose touch with the surface, with the simple beauty of sitting with rolled up pants, your back against a tree.
Sitting like Whitman did, observing a single blade of grass, seeing how the wind touches it, shakes it gently. Another blade of grass that is close is not touched by the wind. Thinking about how we touch some people in the same gentle way that the wind touches the blade of grass, how we leave others unmoved. How we do not always appreciate the times when others touch us. How we are moved by others when they don’t try to move us, how we are unmoved when they do.
I look over at the bridge to the south and see that two people are watching me. I had been singing and possibly talking to myself. I find that I have no more thoughts at the present, nothing more to write. I put back on my shoes and socks, my shirt and jacket.
I walk back towards the place I live, back towards the place that does not feel as much like home.
One thought on “Sitting With My Back Against An Arizona Walnut Tree, by the Creek next to Montezuma Street, Opposite the Power Lines, Thinking About Things”
This being in love with the world is a place I have been before; in college my roommate Katie and I called such moments “wow moments. ”
So many gems in this post: the hardness of the bark; the wind moving the blade of grass; the unbidden tears; simple beauty; it takes more strength to show weakness; your very last line .
This is a very fine piece of writing.