While searching for a specific piece of writing this morning, I opened a file I didn't remember creating. As I started to read the words, I thought, "why would I copy someone else's words into a file in my writing folder?" I closed the file, opened a couple of others, and then came back to the one titled On Inquiry. I read the words beyond the first paragraph and was transported back to an August vacation day. The words are mine. With a few edits, I am sharing these musings because some parts make me uncomfortable; I write for myself, to make sense of the world, and if I'm not sometimes uncomfortable, I'm not digging deeply enough.
One dog, the golden retriever with a too-short haircut and a hungry disposition, lies in a sunbeam just beyond my shade; the other dog, short, wide, determined and full of curiosity, wanders the yard restlessly, the jangle of her tags announcing her movements. Across the broad blue-green river, a trio of teenagers run on the path that weaves close to the bank and then back behind the stoic trees.
The water level is surprising. Nearly every mountain is bare after a warm, dry, winter and every other body of water I’ve seen, be it streams, lakes, ponds, or rivers, is dramatically smaller, slower, and lower than normal. Here, however, lush green vegetation lines the water at what appears to be typical levels; dry banks with exposed tree stumps are no where to be seen.
I contemplate the pace of the river and search for a word to describe its speed. Rapid implies white water and rough traveling. Lazily implies a sense of stagnation, of still, murky depths. Steady. Sure. Deliberate. These are more accurate. She’s like a woman walking down the boulevard with her shoulders back and open just enough to exude confidence but not so open as to look phony or uncomfortable. She meets the eyes of the people she passes and moves toward her destination with intention. She dallies at an eddy now and again, stopping to admire the street vendor’s flowers or to pay attention to the waft of sweet dough coming from the bakery. But then, before long, she moves forward. Her steps are strong but measured, she is moving at the pace that delights. A woman like this needs no lipstick or carefully coiffed hair. Her very presence draws attention, a longing to connect, to meet her, to walk a mile in her shoes just to learn how it feels.
38 years of searching and effort has not taught me this woman’s secret. Sitting still, listening, and opening to possibility is bringing me closer.
The breezy heat carries an odd combination of damp and dry. I breathe in, deeply, and let my mind continue to wander. I’m a writer. And I’m lost. The shelf of books full of advice, back home in my office, is full. Some I’ve read, some I haven’t. Much of my existence has consisted of seeking, of asking and hoping someone, someday, will teach me the meaning of life; so far, the books on that shelf haven’t unlocked the invisible door, beyond which, answers lie. Many days I suspect the meaning of life is a quiet, calm, steady marriage with healthy sons and a suburban address. Some days I buy travel books detailing the important spots within cities in other states, other countries, other continents, searching for a new destination because I am sure the meaning of life is movement and staying still will kill me.
How much of life is enough?
An interesting career with a well-paying job, the love of a man sure as a rock; can these be enough? Sons with personalities that delight and frustrate with the scales unevenly tipping toward the former, parents alive and present, more privilege that I ever imagined possible… the list of reasons to declare it enough could continue for days.
And, yet, the question still resides within my chest, near my heart.
How much of life is enough?
I drink a swig of water. A few drops dribble down my chin and fall to form a dark line on my quick-drying shirt. The folds of fabric just under my bra line are dark with sweat and I can feel the damp growing on my back, the spreading moisture typically creating the shape of the black paint splashes that fictional shrinks use to evaluate mental health and intelligence in movie story lines. My lips are slick but not hydrated, yesterday’s sun burned the normally soft skin just enough to be noticeable. I feel, everything, keenly.
None of my appetites are easily sated. And, when I do feel full, I know from experience the growl of emptiness will return momentarily. Is this hunger for life and all of its possibility a sign to seek more? Or is it simply the way I am built?