Sunday, April 13, 2008

An Urban Love-Hate Affair

My feet hit the pavement in rough taps as I remembered just how much energy it takes to move one leg in front of the other for more than a few steps at a time.

This is what it feels like to move again, to live again.

Winter had turned me into a caged monster. A lethargic, cranky beast who nearly forgot what it was like to feel the sunshine warming her cheeks or to feel a breeze shift her hair into her face. It feels as if I curled up under a dark blanket and slept for three months. Everything is the same again, and I find it comforting.

Each step brought me closer to more of the same. It all felt new. I felt alive, awake. I soaked it all in as smells of Puerto Rican spices wafted through the air mixing with the smoke-filled exhaust from passing buses. We stopped to smell pansies next to the newly installed trash cans. We stepped carefully around shattered glass to hurry to watch the day care children giggle and play in the courtyard.

This is what it means to be in love. To remember to love what you hate. To forget the hate for all that you love. This is what it means to feel a part of something.

Walking is a form of meditation for me. My mind wanders with each stride, and these days it truly is the only time my mind can just settle into one complete thought instead of a million fragments. Sentences, new phrases, new ideas zoom into my mind like the Subway to its next stop: fast, furious and fierce. It's why I carry a notebook; to catch the pristine moments and distinguish them from the junk.

This is what it feels like to dream, again. To remember how good dreams can feel as they wash over your body and as you take it all in and smile.

Our walks are always more like tours through a museum -- one filled with life and color and familiar objects. Fire trucks! Look at that truck. The red buses. The blue bird. The dogs. The busy dogs. Looky, there ... I see a baby. Sleeping baby.

In the farmer's market we oooh and aahh and wow over the red California strawberries and the especially green green beans. We weave through stand after stand filled with food -- glorious, homegrown food.

This is what community is about, this is where I left it last fall when the weather turned cold. I left it here, at the farmer's stand, where the colors are vivid and the cycles of seasons stare me in the face.

I was amazed that after not riding in the stroller that my daughters were eager to sit and let the sights wash over them for 10 blocks with nary a squabble or slap. In fact, they hugged on the ride back. They were just as awake as I to the renewal feeling that spring brings along with it. They felt it.

There is so much to learn from these walks, and despite my mixed feelings on leaving this city, I am so in love with it when the weather is perfect and my fellow community members come out of their hiding places and convene on the sidewalks. Their toothless grins, and stern, hopeless-filled eyes move me to appreciate my path all the more. They humble me and inspire me and fill me with great inspiration. To write again. To live again. To love again.

This is what compassion feels like. This is eternal bliss. This feeling of walking on air and passing the world by with smiles and busy lives. This is my neighborhood. These people are my reality. They are my whole world.

I am in awe. Always. Forever. In awe.


musemother said...

beautiful post Shawn,
very poetic, yet grounded in the real, the sensory details of your walk. I still have to stop myself from yelling, Plane, or HOrsie, when I'm in the kids are 15 and 17....ears plugged into their Ipods or watching a DVD in the back seat....yet when they notice a sunset or a flower, I feel I have planted a seed that will be with them always.
seed of the observer, in awe,

RocketMom said...

Fabulous post! I know well those feelings of happy and sad at moving. In the last weeks before the truck came to pick up our belongings and we boarded the plane, all I could think of was everything I liked about the region, and not all those things that drove us to leave. Still, it is spring. New beginnings are happy and tumultous as seedlings break through the earth.

marta said...

May we all be in awe.

Enjoyed your interview, by the way. Keep working on that novel--what else would you expect me to say?

Shannon said...

Hope you can feel this connection wherever life takes you next, too. It is so nice to unthaw and unfurl, isn't it! Love spring.

Jena Strong said...

A beautiful, meditative reflection, Shawn. Glad you carry that notebook.


village mama said...

Yeah to your outdoor play/meditation poem!

bella said...

beautiful writing, beautiful words.
you have captured my own love of the city, what it feels like to walk its streets, feel its heart beat, watch it come alive again.