Monday, March 03, 2008

Among the Living

As I was lying in bed two weeks ago, wickedly sick with the flu, I felt this incredible sense of isolation. Isolated from human contact, daily activities, from fresh air and motion, I felt so stagnant. I vowed to myself that I would really get out more once I recovered. With a brand new camera sitting on my desk, begging to be used (yes, I finally broke down and bought a Canon EOS Digital Rebel), I devised a plan. I determined that each weekend I will make a day trip someplace within about a two hour drive. I will only take my camera, a book, and things to write with. Wherever I go, I will enjoy my surroundings and read, write, and photograph. I also decided to get out more in general and just go do things that I often think about doing but never actually do. I'm really accustomed to doing things alone and that doesn't really bother me at all but I guess I so often find myself doing the same limited things out of routine or feeling less inclined to try new things because the experience is not shared. Yet, as was reiterated to me this weekend, participating in life is always a shared event.
So, I woke up on Saturday morning and drove to the beach. I was fully anticipating a very wet and gray day. I was more than happy with the drive itself and the thought of sitting in a coffee shop or at an overlook in my car, writing and reading. But when I arrived at the beach, the clouds parted somewhat and the sun emerged. The day was incredible. I walked up and down the quiet main street, walked down to the beach, and in and out of bookstores and art galleries. I indulged a pancake craving that I had sustained while sick and later, sat on a bench and enjoyed a vanilla latte while writing and watching passers-by. It was such a great day. I felt so completely at ease and still. Time was of no issue. I wasn't in a hurry to get there, frantically passing cars where possible. Instead, I felt utterly at leisure. I stopped and photographed some huge uprooted trees from a recent storm and was happy to see the promise of spring in blooming daffodils at the beach:

On Sunday, I walked down to watch the Oregon State Beavers baseball team play Georgia here in the city. Again, the day proved to be beautiful, the sun was pleasantly warm on my face. I realized how much I missed sitting in a baseball park and I relished the experience further with a hot dog and beer. I sat four rows up between third base and home plate. Two couples in their late 40s sat next to me and their four sons sat in front of them. One of the wives noticed that I was sitting alone and inquired if my friends had abandoned me. I smiled and told her that I came alone. She quickly moved her coat from the seat between us and told me to join them. She introduced me to her husband and friends and then the four adorable boys. The wives and I chatted during the game, talking about the city, their lives as parents, and their general feelings about watching their sons grow into little men. The boys all high-fived me when the Beavers scored or made a great play. The husbands apparently had a Little League meeting that evening and the wives giggled as they plotted their evening together at home with the boys and a pitcher of margaritas. It felt strangely comforting to be a part of their lives for a few innings of a baseball game.
When I was getting my hot dog and beer at the concession stand, a former neighbor of mine from college was standing in front of me. We lived in the dorms next door to each other when I returned to grad school. He was a freshman then and would often burn CDs and movies for me and I would listen to some of his frustrations and offer encouragement. After the game, walking home, I also ran into a friend I knew in grad school over three years ago. He and I had several Sociology classes together and often engaged in great conversations about social issues and making a difference in this world. I was happy to hear that despite having a full time job as an electrician, he leaves work almost every day during the week and goes to a children's center for a few hours, working with severely troubled kids.
So, despite getting out and doing these things alone, I felt incredibly connected to everyone around me, not just those two people I ran into from college. Even people who passed by me on the main street, the bride and groom being photographed on the beach, the teenage couple that sat nearby during the game... they all lent to that feeling of being connected, regardless of the fact that I did not exchange words with many of them.
I felt a sense of hope as I participated more fully in life this weekend. I felt hopeful about the possibility of having a family of my own one day and sitting at a baseball game with them, hopeful about being a writer, hopeful about humanity. I could see the goodness in everyone and everything around me. This hope didn't accelerate a sense of longing for those things, however. Instead, it revealed that everything comes in its due time. When we try to force things, that's when we find ourselves frustrated, unable, limited, and often when we feel like we've failed. Opportunities will present themselves when they are right. And if we are patient and open, we will recognize those opportunities and enter into them, ready. The daffodils I photographed above are a testament to this. They return every spring, often surprising us by emerging before expected. They emerge and reemerge in due time. And they are lovelier for such. 


Anonymous said...

it's lovely how many times people surprise me. Especially when I go places by myself, I find that I make more friends this way. This is why I love to travel alone.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

I didn't realize you were in my neck of the woods :)
My nephew just started his first year at OSU. And I'm bringing some Beavers stuff to friends in France ;)
Beautiful post, glad you're back!

Randal Graves said...

That's exactly what you have to do, just groove through life. You can't force stuff like that. And that's a great idea about the camera, just to see what's out there.

Richard said...

Sorry to hear you were sick. Sometimes when we are down we want to be alone and other times we wish someone would bring some chicken soup and just visit. I guess I should have acted on my instinct and buzzed you to see how you were doing - but there is always the whole, "Maybe I am just being annoyingly intrusive" debate that goes on in my head.

We have the same camera. I like it. It has a great burst function. I haven't taken any award winning pictures with it - mostly because I don't lug it around with me - but I did snap over 200 photos this past Sunday when I took the kids skating.

I have discovered that I don't actually write. I type.

I bought bought the Fly pentop computer last night and hope it will encourage me to write more. The hour I spent playing with it last night was impressive (not that I actually wrote anything). My main gripes at the moment are that (1) it is bulkier than a regular pen, (2) it is heavier than a regular pen, (3) the pen doesn't flow as well as I would like (but then, I am heavy handed and enjoy a good free-flowing medium ballpoint).

I'm glad you had an enjoyable time mingling with people. My experience is that people usually interact with me when I don't want human interaction, but just want to enjoy them peripherally, and when I do want companionship, it seems lacking (fortunately, those times are sparse).

The real question is, "What is the difference between being open and receptive to the universe and drifting?"

Or ... maybe it is more like fishing, some days the fish are nibbling and other days they are not.

b said...

Function of Time... It is lovely, isn't it? I, too, love to travel alone. I feel more open and perceptive. However, too easily when going about my day-to-day life here, I neglect to get out and experience new things as much as I would like. So, that's a big focus for me right now... treating home as a wonderful place to explore and experience.

Cassoulet Café... Wow. I didn't realize we were that close either! I'm happy to hear that you are also a fellow Beaver! :) Do your friends in France really like the Beavers? That is so great. Thanks for the comment. I'm happy to be back, too!

Randal..."Just groove through life." Exactly. We have to participate in life without trying to manipulate or control things. Yeah, I'm enjoying the camera. It gives me a new outlook on my surroundings.

Richard... You're so kind. Yes, when I'm sick, for the most part I just want to be alone and rest but sometimes being really sick does create a yearning for chicken soup and a visit. More than anything, it feels so nice when friends or family just offer to do something. But how were you to know, especially given my blogging hiatus? :) And you are never annoyingly intrusive!

So you also have the Canon EOS Digital Rebel? I have so much to learn about this camera and photography in general but am enjoying it already. How did your photos turn out of the kids skating?

I think I do better writing than typing, although usually that just entails scribbling down some thoughts and feelings. However, I'm sure when I get going on longer writing pieces, I'll type. I looked up that Fly pentop computer. It's really interesting. So, you have the pen and write on special paper that will upload to your computer? Yeah, I do like the feel of a certain pen and the flow though.

Being open and receptive versus drifting? As I mentioned to Randal above, I think that for me, it comes down to being open to life and participating in life without seeking a certain outcome or placing expectations upon experiences. Of course, it is impossible to fully suspend our hopes and desires, but I don't think that is the point. I find that when I am at peace with my deepest hopes and desires and not trying to force a desired outcome, things unfold perfectly and my sense of purpose is strengthened.

With all that said, yes... I think there are definitely days where the fish are nibbling and other days they are not. Things aren't always easy and happy-go-lucky!

Richard said...

I just found a pen that looks even better LiveScribe - although the lensless frames the spokesmodel wears are kind of distracting.

Yeah, you have to write on a special paper. The pen locates itself by specially printed dots on the page.

The photos came out fine. I managed to even snap some photos of dripping icicles.

And, yeah, how was I to know?

Ancilla said...

b, once again i want to say welcome back ^^

and sorry to hear that you were sick. good thing that you are much healthier now.

i guess, i am on the phase "anti-social" right now. thus, i really understand how great your experiences. not an anti-social where i really hate to deal with others. just refuse to be in the middle of small talk or giving any fake smile...

and you have accompany, an EOS would be a great one!

hahaha.. yupes b, life can't always be a happy-go-lucky.

richard: found it an interesting thing, the fly pentop.

lapagefrancaise said...

I love this notion of daffodils as a metaphor for all things happening in due time and as a reminder not to force things, but to be patient and wait for them to arrive when it's their time to arrive. Your words: "When we try to force things, that's when we find ourselves frustrated, unable, limited, and often when we feel like we've failed", are a good lesson for me. I so often feel like I want everything that I want now now now, and I feel like I have failed if I don't have it all happen now. I have to remind myself that things do happen when the time is right. Just like the return of the daffodils every spring.

Your outings at the beach and at the ballgame sounded very pleasant. That's a good idea to take the time every weekend to go off with just a book, a camera and writing materials and have a thoughtful adventure

Anonymous said...

I'm sooo happy to see you're back!
You are such a breeze of fresh air, the world needs more people like you. :-)
Enjoy the little moments in life.

b said...

Richard... The pen is a really interesting concept. You'll have to let me know how you like it over time. The dripping icicle shots did turn out great. Over winter, I was driving home through the hills and in one tunnel, there was this massive icicle... it was incredible. I wish I had my camera then. I probably would have gone back to photograph it!

Ancilla... Thank you SO much. You are so very kind. I haven't been that sick in a very long time but in retrospect, it was probably a good thing for me. It reminded me that I do need to reach out for help from time to time.... that I can't always do things on my own. And it really shook a funk I had been in for about a month, giving me a fresh perspective upon being healthy again.

I too go through my anti-social phases, often enough. Sometimes we just feel that instinct to withdraw and be introspective. That time is important and recharges us if we really indulge in that introspection in a healthy way. At least, that is my belief! :) Just don't be hard on yourself about needing to withdraw right now. There is nothing wrong with feeling that way and taking care of yourself.

My EOS is good company, thanks. I'm really enjoying it!

b said...

La Page Française... I'm so happy that you can appreciate this metaphor of due time and the beauty of things unfolding naturally instead of being forced. The words are a good reminder for me as well and as with anything, beg repeating, especially for those really trying times when we do want it "now, now, now!" :)

My outgoings were so rejuvenating, thank you. You said it so perfectly when you referred to such as "thoughtful adventure."

b said...

Zen Chef... Oh, you are incredibly kind. Your comment really made my day! Thank you. I feel so grateful to have connected with so many great people such as yourself through this blog and I truly feel honored to know that I am inspiring to you.

You are so right... enjoying the little moments make for tremendous fulfillment and happiness. Merci!

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Our friends in France are sports nuts, so they wanted to know what teams we like over here. Well, hubby said we more follow college football than anything, and that we have two universities, etc. They asked for stuff, so naturally they're going to receive Beavers merchandise! ;)
Although, I really should find some Blazers stuff to bring too, now that I think about it.

Cavalock said...

b, looking forward to reading bout all your wkend trips n more!

take it easy!

Randal Graves said...

Tag, you're it. To help you return to the blogging groove. ;-)