I walked my beat around the bay this morning. Its surface lay like thick and shining pewter, polished by the heat that threatens but hangs back, an undecided bully. The sun snagged behind silver-lined clouds, their shifting, tectonic forms bunched up like sea ice beginning to break. I am working a very great deal, and I feel like sea ice, too.
It isn’t alien to everyone: 12-hour days; the conflicting demands of two jobs; the hourless anarchy of freelance work, with emails pouring gleefully in, expecting an answer. I thrive on focus, routine. I did not know this until given this chance to learn the hard way.
Swallows above the water wove insect-patterned tapestries. A few male mallards slouched about, looking shabby and smeared, like they’d been out all night doing things they’d rather not admit to. I may be noticing eclipse plumage for the first time. How many opportunities have I missed to see this thing that happens – noticeably – every year, to ducks you can count on finding everywater?
Work – this problem of unrestrained abundance I have brought upon myself – is a second chance as well. I’ve had two jobs before, plus freelancing, a scant two months ago. It was unsustainable then. I was never this slow to learn a lesson in school.
In the moss-green shallows beneath a dreaming willow, a small blue heron poised, her mind on business. Dreamers do not snare fish. Except that this one stood motionless in a roil of indented tails. There must have been two dozen fish there, longer than my forearm and dense with muscle. They were squirming at something below those willow boughs, their tails erupting every minute or so to clatter about each other and the surface.
It may be a human failing to see ourselves in every unrelated thing. I’m a desperate fish today, twisting about for solutions to a problem I can only see in pieces. I’m a hunting heron, baffled by creatures that look right, except for this awkward problem of size and accessibility.
I take these walks very early, deliberately starting work a half hour later than I could. The part of me that pines for profit, for prestige or production or whatever it is I’m seeking with these piled-on commitments, whines at the delay. But there is always something I am not doing. I force myself to leisure because I know I will dislike myself if I ever get used to its absence.
I’m outside again this afternoon, my work packed away indoors. It will keep, and if it doesn’t – well, I won’t. Intermittent wind hisses through the spear-points of my Douglas maple’s leaves. The heat is out there, where the sun heaves against this cooling river of breeze. Here in flickering leafshadow, today is utterly pleasant.
It smells like midsummer, like my family’s annual camping trip, organized in the Northwest woods for a decade and a half before I moved here as an adult. The peak of green, the in-between – I am homesick with it.
It is easier than losing my way in the forest, this disconnection from myself. I know this feeling, and I wish I didn’t: my spirit disjointed, and pieces wandering while I make a map of their exile. I make plans, sure. Behind them, I spend what I have missing everything I have ever loved, even if I haven’t lost it yet.