The bench was divided into two sections, I occupied the left side closest to the sun. I took out my book, Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk, and surrendered my to-do list to the blue sky and rippled water of Green Lake.
An older couple came and sat in the other half of the bench next to me. They never say a word. For twenty minutes they held hands, resting their heads together as they gaze at the water, or perhaps something beyond it. The man had a knit green cap, thick brown corduroy pants, and a brown flannel tucked into his shirt. He must run cold, because I was already flushed from the heat and everyone else in sight was wearing shorts. The woman wore faded jeans and a dusty purple sweater. They looked ready for a fall breeze, not the beginning of summer.
Eventually they stood up, without speaking, and began walking away with careful steps. They continued to hold hands as they walked, supporting each other with each slow movement.
I returned to my book.
I would like to learn, or remember how to live. I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it. (pg 14)
A woman rushed up to me, her curly short hair fluffed by the wind, and asked if her daughter can sit next to me while she ran to the restroom. I looked behind her to see a timid girl with bright blonde hair. I smiled and said yes, that would be fine.
The girl was wearing black capris and a white shirt with rainbow gems along the collar. Her hair was pulled back in a long, buoyant ponytail. I asked her name—India. I asked her age—8. I asked if she was in school—second grade. She said she likes it, but she thinks spelling and math are kind of boring. Her mom returned and they too walked away hand in hand.
A bird pecked by, and every few steps it slowly puffed out, wings extending, making a noise that sounded like a text message alert. It flits away and I gaze back at the yellowed pages.
I don’t think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular…but I might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive. (pg 15)
A man parked his bike near mine and sat on the other side of the back-to-back benches. He rested one arm over the top of the bench and huffed in controlled spurts.
Behind us on the walking path a man strummed sporadic cords on an off-tune guitar. He spoke at random:
“I was born in an espresso stand but raised by wolves.”
“Keep it down doggies, I’m trying to talk to the community.”
“Like most people I hate TV, except when I’m on it.”
“I would love to make a dollar today.”
My biker bench companion smirked at me, eyebrows raised—“So much for peace and quiet.” He hoisted his spandex clad body onto his bike. “Good luck with your novel or whatever.” And he rode away.
I had five more minutes before I had to go home and have dinner. The sun was slowly sinking to dance with the water in a mirage of metallic ripples. The bustle behind me continued, the bird resumed it’s notifications, and I finished the chapter.
We can live any way we want…The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn’t “attack” anything; a weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity. (pg 16)