Sunday, June 7, 2015

Strangers in the Night


“To be is to do.” —Socrates
“To do is to be.”—Jean Paul Sartre
“Do be do be do.”— Frank Sinatra

School is out. To celebrate, I took out my rubber ball from the drawer and headed out the door. Dropped off a sports jacket at a dry cleaning place in my neighborhood I’ve passed by for 33 years and never used. Got my glasses straightened at another store. Headed into Golden Gate Park bouncing my ball. Into the Arboretum to the smell garden, rubbing leaves and smelling them, the mint the strongest. Made a short bow to the St. Francis statue tucked away in the rhododendrons with water running through his hands. Sat on my special little bench dedicated to Mitch Lerner, someone born one year before me, but left this world so early in 1987. Don’t know anything about him, but let him know that I would enjoy the sights and sounds of this overcast near-summer day on his behalf. And I did. Wrote in my journal, then lay down in the nearby grass under the Malus tree to read my book. A perfect way to begin summer vacation.

Of course, it’s not quite over. Still report cards to do, some classroom cleaning, two days of meeting and our farewell luncheon and goodbyes to an unusual number of teachers leaving. Considering writing a song for each of the 18, but if not, at least three or four. But for all practical purposes, the intensity of being on, scheduled, responsible for and to others is brought down many notches and at least until my grandson is born (anytime in the next three weeks), I’m my own man. It’s just me and the day meeting each other this morning with a big question mark— what shall we do? How shall we be?

This frontier between intense doing and relaxed being that we encounter at the beginning of a vacation is often a tricky one to navigate. Often one gets sick or injured or wanders around at loose ends. We both "doing" creatures and "being" creatures— and also "do-be-do-be-doing singing creatures"— all these parts are in constant conversation. The doing part of ourselves and the being part of ourselves meet like strangers in the night, exchanging glances. What are the chances that they’d be sharing love before the night is through? (You do know this song, yes?)

The walk in the park was a good start and one way to move from do to be is to get the heck out of the house and let the world take over. Notice the songbirds you pass by so often, lower yourself down to the grass and watch some ants at work, hug a tree—really. Move the body not with numbers and calories in mind, but for the sheer pleasure of movement. Talk to strangers and shopkeepers, sit on a log and read a poem or memorize a poem or write a poem. Realize that the world will still spin without your frantic efforts to contribute and be remembered. Feel the changes from the early morning to the midday sun (or fog!) to the twilight darkening. Watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean, something you could do every day of your life and be the richer for it, and yet, something you so rarely do. Slow down, simplify, savor.

It’s summer. 

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