Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Physical Gears of Time

Solstice Sunset
If a human being could be born with an innate realization that her life is fleeting and miraculous - that it is beautiful beyond all measure - if she were born knowing the earth is a magnificent physical gift from an unknown benefactor - then perhaps she would not waste long years worrying about things that do not matter.  She would know that life is the journey and the journey is the lesson.  On the other hand, if she were to pay better attention in school many things have already been discovered and presented in successive age-appropriate lessons.

I lived at Spiritcreek for several years before I realized the full moon is always opposite the sun in the sky.  Oh, I understood the phases of the moon but I had never spent any effort observing the mechanics of those phases in real life.  In over four decades of full moons, it had never occurred to me to turn to the opposite horizon at moon rise or moon set.  I spent long hours of my life watching the moon through a bedroom window, or through a car windshield, or from an outdoor vantage point contemplating the mundane to the sublime.  In wonder, heartache, loneliness, grief, and in happiness, excitement and anticipation, the moon had long been my philosopher's stone, my silent, mysterious companion.  I paid no heed to the waxing and waning moon advancing and retreating in relation to the sun's position, though.  My understanding of the phases of the moon moved from theoretical into practical observation in single flash of recognition.  Oh yeah, I thought to myself.

Human time-keeping grew organically from the observations of the moon and sun and the slow progression of constellations across the night sky.  We gradually came into awareness of when to move to warmer shelter, when to move away from floods, when the herds would return, when plants were ready for harvest.  This timing is intrinsic within our bones even though we do our best to ignore it with our unnatural 24 hours of light and noise. The movement of the physical entities in the universe is a cosmological time piece.  The spinning orbits are the movement of a clock measuring time on a scale we cannot even imagine though we have a word for it:  infinite.  

We are mortal here because we incarnate into a time universe, a ticking universe.  We each have only a short measure, an individual span.  There must be universes where time does not exist - it is where the idea of infinity originates.  Long before we knew the science, we recognized a year and saw that it was divided into four reassuringly repeating quarters.  Long before we were clever enough to build a machine for it, we knew how to keep time.  We are made of time, immersed in time.  We live and die by time.

This year I had the opportunity to celebrate the winter solstice with a group of like-minded gentlefolk.  We were meditating together just an hour past the local moment of solstice, blessed by the full moon.  The next winter solstice full moon will not occur until 2094.  It is safe to say I will not be here for that one, at least not as the me I am right now.  I have marked the winter solstice alone for almost 30 years, mostly because I could not find anyone else interested in celebrating this most fundamental passage of time.  It was a pleasant and unusual experience to share the solstice.  There were other groups of people also gathering locally and the world over.  Humans are remembering something important when we recognize this natural timing and attach no other significance to it except to wish others well in the coming year.

It is a good sign...

Solstice Moonrise

Monday, December 3, 2018

Maybe It Is Not That Much of Mystery...

I made a quick trip into a dollar store in Topeka this afternoon to get laundry detergent. I can never seem to remember to get EVERYTHING I need in one trip these days. There is always one thing left over to seed another trip to town. So be it. The good thing about needing only one thing is that I can go into the smallest store, saving wear and tear on my poor knees.

The older and weaker I become, the more conscious I am about my personal safety. Maybe I should no longer carry a purse. A desperate young man, or woman for that matter, could easily make off with it. Until the purse strap broke I would present the most determined, immovable object in the universe. I also have an aluminum cane that I would not hesitate using to beat some one's ass. (If confronted with a gun, I would drop the purse and hobble away, screaming. Probably cussing, too.)

I have thought about the possibility of being an easy target. I am not afraid. I am simply taking stock. When I get out of my car in Topeka, I pay attention to my surroundings. This evening as I walked toward the entrance of the dollar store, a young man appeared at the corner of the building. He was wearing a hood low over his face but he was looking right at me. Because he was a young black man, I castigated myself for even considering he might be a threat. He and I reached the door at the same time and he held the door open for me. I thanked him and briefly felt like a racist old asshole. I asked myself if he had been a young white man in a hoodie, apparently looking at me though there were other people coming and going in the parking lot, would I have even considered that he might pose a threat? I think it was the hoodie and being noticed by a young man and had nothing to do with race. Old women are almost invisible to young (and old) men.

After he held the door I was thinking what a nice young man he must be. It felt good that someone was considerate and kind enough to hold the door for me. I went directly to the detergent, made a detour around the candy aisle though I was seriously considering buying some delicious chocolate because, you know: chocolate! Then, I went directly to the checkout. As I was leaving, the young man suddenly appeared at the door and held it open. I was pleasantly surprised and said "Thank you!" There was another lady coming in on my right and he was exiting on my left. I said "Excuse me," to the lady as I stepped through the door, which unexpectedly slammed against me. I knew the older lady was behind me so I reflexively stuck my foot back to stop the door from hitting her. She sounded irritated when she said "I got it!"

What the heck happened?

The young man was walking ahead of me toward my car. Over his shoulder he said "I heard what you said about me." He was saying a lot of things that I could not hear well enough to catch. I was taken aback. The only words I had spoken to ANYONE had been the two times I had thanked him for holding the door. I said, "Sir, I didn't say anything to anyone." He continued to walk and accuse me of lying and whatever else he was accusing me of. I felt very bad. I called to him, "I can't hear what you are saying but I did not say anything to anyone." He continued to make accusations I could not hear.

Once in the car I had a few seconds to process what just happened. He apparently waited for me at the door so he could slam it on me. The older lady coming in was a black woman and maybe it was not even me she was irritated with. The whole event was a very strange thing. I have no idea what made him accuse me of saying anything about him at all. He was not venting anger directly toward me nor threatening me. He seemed somewhat hurt but there was no chance to discuss it nor clear any misunderstanding. On the other hand, in retrospect, it appeared as if he had targeted me from the beginning. But perhaps it just seemed that way. Our paths crossed so briefly, neither of us with a clue as to what in the other's life led up to the door encounter. He walked down Tenth Street, looking back to see if I was going to follow him? There was nothing I could say or do so I just came home. I have absolutely no idea what it is to be a young black man in America. He has no idea what it is to be a hippie chick who has suddenly found herself old and worn out.

I do not know how a single person of color can trust any white person in our country. That we get along as well as we do is a testament to our resilient human nature more than anything. I do not want to be thought of as a racist old white woman, but I am certain there are millions of old white women who look exactly like me. Why wouldn't a young black man assume I am a racist, or a liar, or a two-faced old bitch? What happened that caused that young man to think I was talking badly about him? Maybe more than 500 years of abominable cruelty and racism? Maybe the fact that racism is so bad in America right now that even the police are murdering innocent black people on the streets in full view of dozens of witnesses, then given paid time off before being absolved of any wrong doing?

I am sorry young man, whoever you are and wherever you are. I am so sorry for all of it.