My eyes are heavy with sleep. As they linger in the memories of colored dreams, my mouth yearns for the taste of black tea and cream, a signal from my tongue that morning has arrived. The day is bright and young and there are plenty of cars on the road. I am slightly startled by the realization that lots of people get up this early; when I’m usually warm and naked and covered in a heavy blanket, there is an army of school buses and brightly vested crossing guards and morning commuters with coffee for a carpool companion.
I brake at the first stop sign I see. On my left, I notice a plump orange cat trotting down the street, he’s just about to turn the corner and head south, his small padded feet are soundless on the sidewalk. Just as he’s about to pass the first house, he hops onto the house’s front stoop effortlessly, and then he continues for three trots until the step ends and then he jumps back to the sidewalk. I am struck by its fluidity. Walking, jumping, continuing on. He moves as he wants, without a second of hesitation. There’s no time for thought or calculation, he just moves as he should, so inhuman, so unlike me.
I smile as I press the gas and continue on. I make up a two-line ditty about the cat as I drive, one sentence ending in a high note, the other line ending in an extended low note.
I enter the freeway, cars pass me, I pass others. The light is bright, the golden rays hit the side of my face, I like it, but still, I move the visor to block some of its strength. The road curves, winding through the wooded hills just a couple miles from the coast. In a thicket of cypresses, I notice a slated structure of wood at the top of a hill and I’m surprised I’ve never noticed it before. Is it a sculpture? A church? My question is answered as the small gold cross comes into view.
The three lane highway gently winds and I feel my chest making itself known. I bring my attention in constantly, my face is relaxed, there’s not a sound coming from the radio. Just me and the world beyond. This drive is one I make twice a week in the early afternoon, and usually it seems as quick as a blink, but today in the early light of morning, it feels like the journey of a lifetime. For a couple of seconds I panic, wondering if I’ve passed the familiar exit, but no, I see a sign for the junction I need to take in the distance.
On my right is a pretty lake, the deserted body of blue waters that seems too picturesque to be without mansions in the hills beyond. But somehow, it has remained calm and undeveloped. Sometimes I notice hawks circling above, today, it is only my chest that circles with energy.
The well worn journey is different today, although I don’t realize it until later, until the moment has passed and I am once again “myself.” The usual commute that zips by in a whirl of daydreaming and talking voices and instrumental sounds that cascade to me from the local college radio. Today, it’s me and the world, me and my presence, me and my attention, on the lake and the cat and the sculpture of a church that sat there for years without my notice.
It’s me and everything I see…and really, it is not me, it is Us…This, Here. This morning, some of the many “I’s” are actually here, present, and we look into the world and see wonder and secrets and silent steps that are filled with a thousand teachings. The journey is long, the minutes are themselves full and expanding, pushing my perception of the world to the brink. The cars move forward and then recede from my vision. We are all here together, in this bright morning of circling energy and colored visions. Today, I can see them. Broken from the usual habit of mental chatter, I have more time, an extended reality. The drive is the same, just as many miles, just as many minutes, and yet, there is more of it today, more that I see, more that I can feel, more to take and transform with words and shapes and sounds.
How much of this have I missed through the many years of sleepwalking? How often have I truly been alive?