Rock ‘n’ Crow: Pausing to Look Around

Slow down. Look around. Be “present” and “in the moment.” I read this stuff in books about Buddhism and mindfulness. But it’s difficult. So I draw symbols and words on my wrist to help me remember.

While walking the dogs this morning, I stopped to spot the crow that was “Caw! Caw! Cawing!” at me. I stood still and searched the tree tops while the dogs sniffed around for scents of dogs long gone.

What I first determined to be a big black bird was an odd branch crooked in two sharp right angles. I looked higher in the tree right above me and took a few steps.

Caw! Caw! Caw!

I stopped and saw the bird right above me looking around like birds do. He didn’t look down at me. I thought about the odds I’d get pooped on. 5 percent? Probably lower. I walked from underneath to get a better view and wondered if I was the cause of his anxiety (like I was out to steal his blackness) or if I had taken a different route the bird would be sitting in the same spot making the same cries. How much did I change the order of the universe by walking down Buchanan Street?

Dexter whizzed on some weird bush. Sammie tugged the leash–almost out of my hand–wanting to move on. A crow on the ground would get the dogs’ attention, but not the cocky crow way up in a tree. The bird flew away to caw at someone else and I walked on.

I paused again before a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar wrapper on the sidewalk, considered picking it up, but stepped over it. The dogs sniffed at it. I wondered how it came to be here at my feet. I pictured a young male–anywhere between 8 and 24–ripping the paper off and tossing it over his shoulder, something I might have done at that age. But not at this age.

I imagined a boy littering, not only because I know myself, but I know my own girls. They occasionally carry sacks around the neighborhood picking up others’ trash. Our street is heavily traveled by pedestrians and bicyclists; we’re on the edge of downtown, so it’s common to find liquor bottles and a variety of food packaging in front of our house.

When we’re together, all trash gets handed to me. To them, my pockets are the most useful thing ever invented. Unlimited trash and storage capacity.

Of course, females litter too, and maybe my girls, whom I’m bragging on, will grown into litterers before growing back out in their twenties. I’ll say “Remember when you used to PICK UP trash?” God, I’m getting emotional thinking about Chloe at 17.

I approached the intersection of Buchanan and Hillsboro and heard the hiss of sprinklers. The drenching of decorative plants against an office building made me think of my own yard, in need of attention. I thought I heard more flowing water across the street at the Episcopal Church. Its impressive landscape is so abundant, extending so far from its walls, that hidden sprinklers deep within the foliage wouldn’t have surprised me.

In front of a fourplex I saw a gray rock half-buried in the dirt. It was smooth, the size of a sensible cookie, probably displaced from a nearby sea of rocks. It looked like a rock Ainsley would dig up and slide into my pocket. I almost did myself. But I’ll wait for a future walk and I’ll say “Whoa, look at that awesome rock.”

I’ll be sad when she stops sliding “treasures” into my pocket.

So, yeah, the drudgery of life, reexamined, can be more fulfilling than carrying the metaphorical bag of feces.

Turtles Make Lousy Speed bumps

This morning before school I got down on all fours in the dining room to demonstrate to Ainsley what the turtle looked like the moment before we picked it up off the road a couple of summers ago. I tried to stretch my neck as far as would go and I looked at her with fear in my eyes and looked left and right like “Holy shit, where am I and how did I get here?”

We both laughed. It was one of those successful moments of parenting that fills me with this feeling that I won’t even try to describe. I try to pile those moments up to the roof. We all want to be awesome parents. Even the great parents want to do better. It’s the hardest “job” in the world.

Unfortunately, I’m not an awesome parent all the time. I get crabby. Patience drains. Silliness vanishes. In dark moments I might believe they caused my bad mood. Not true. It’s in the self-help books: happiness is a choice, right? A foul mood builds on itself and shields you from reason. That’s why I’ve been thinking more about mindfulness lately.

Mindfulness is important enough to spend time on every day, but winter drains me of this along with of other important stuff–basic stuff. As March approaches, though, I can sense some improvements. The color is coming back into my life. After two such winters I wonder how long I’ll continue to live in this climate. I can’t afford to trade in 25% of life.

Unfortunately, our turtle talk reminded me of a another story, one  without a happy ending. Luckily, I was by myself when I stopped in the middle of a busy four lane divided road to rescue a hapless turtle. I jumped out and waited for two cars to pass over the top of the turtle that was right in the center of the inside lane, plodding towards me. The first car whizzed by. My eyes were on the second vehicle, a pickup truck. At the moment it passed I took a step towards the turtle, six feet away.

For a second I was confused by the disgusting crunch. What the hell? The anonymous driver of that truck is the only human being I hate at this point in my life.

Let me look at this through his eyes. The speed limit is only 35. There’s a guy standing in the middle of the road waiting to enter his lane and there’s something large in front of him. Couldn’t he have slowed down, switched lanes, stopped?

I jumped back into the van, devastated, disgusted, and angry.

Mindfulness would have saved that turtle.

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Update: Of course, not ALL parents aim high. What can you say about the sickos of the world?