I spent a couple of hours at my parents' house yesterday afternoon. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and 75 degrees, and I figured that the best place to enjoy it was on their back porch.
I got there around 3:30. My dad was outside practicing his guitar. My mom had made a pitcher of sweet tea. “How southern is this,” I thought to myself as I poured myself a glass. If she had had biscuits in the oven, I might have had to turn around and leave.
After a few minutes my sister and her husband came by to drop off my nephew. They quickly left to enjoy some precious hours without child.
My nephew is 14 months old. He’s walking everywhere, and pretty much only wants his grandmother to hold him.
We played this really exciting game. I’m going to explain it to you, but you need to make sure you are sitting down.
Here’s what we did: He would pick up a leaf, walk over and hand it to me. I then said Thank You, which would prompt him to go pick up another leaf, walk back over to me, and start the whole process again.
That’s it. That’s the game. We did it for about 45 minutes straight.
The weird thing is, after the fourth or fifth time, it became kind of fun. I really wanted to see how long he could keep it going. It made me long for the days when something so small could keep me so entertained.
There was a moment back in 2001. I had just turned 23, and was between my first and second years of graduate school. The year had been insane. I had pulled 70 hour weeks, done six shows, read and reported on the entirety of Shakespeare’s canon, as well as about thirty other Elizabethan plays.
My brain was fried.
Our big break between Year One and Year Two was three weeks in August. During week number one, I went to the mountains to hang out with my friends from college.
One afternoon, it was probably our second or third day there, I was sitting in the back yard, taking in the view. There was a pile of tiny rocks sitting next to me, and I began picking up those rocks and throwing them at a tree about twenty feet away from me. I’m sure I was stoned, because I sat there all by myself, throwing rocks at that tree for about an hour. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. The relief that I had nothing to do, no papers or rehearsal, was overwhelming. There was absolutely nothing to worry about, except for throwing those rocks at the that tree.
They say “What a difference a day makes” but it’s nothing compared to what 18 years can do. This was August of 2001. 9/11 was still a month away, so that event yet to work its damage on our collective psyches. This was a year before I had a cell phone, before that little computer in my pocket had permanently altered the wiring of brain, before I had been turned into a Pavlovian dog, demanding a hit of information every five to seven minutes.
There was nothing between me and the present moment, between me and the warm mountain air, between me and picking up rocks and throwing them at a tree.
I’m not sure I’ve had another moment in the past two decades that free from care.
The thing I love most about that moment, is that I was aware of how special it was. I’ve heard writers say that they often have a double perspective on life- they’re living moment to moment, but watching it at the same time. I wasn’t a writer back then, but I guess my brain was already starting to work that way, because I remember seeing myself, cognizant that something important was occurring.
I was cognizant yesterday too. While time may have had its effect on me, as it does all of us, while my brain might not have been totally free from worry, it was remarkable doing nothing but taking a leaf and saying thank you to this little creature, over and over and over again.
A reminder that I should nothing more often.