Truth be told I’m simply overwhelmed. There is so much going on in every aspect of my life it is difficult some times to keep anything straight at all. The irony is that when I returned from Spain I did so with a conviction toward “simplicity.” I came back focused and determined to concentrate on what I learned on the Camino, that the simplest things in life are the most valuable and fulfilling. But somewhere in the course of the past two years things got away from me. And here I am back in the thick of spread too thin.
I’m not complaining since I can control what I add to my life and what I don’t. But still the current trench is somewhat deeper than usual and it makes it difficult to see the sky.
So, I walk.
I walk along the Rappahannock River near the Chesapeake Bay, or back along the small roads running along the marsh lands under tall pines and past duck ponds. Deer, geese, osprey, egrets and eagles are normal companions on my walks. In the winter I don the proper clothes and keep going. In the summer I’m down to a t-shirt, sunblock shorts, and my Merrell hiking sandals and I sweat my way through eight or ten miles. I think, I write in my head, I remember what needs to be done and I plan on what I will no longer do. The endorphins engage and at night I get down more thoughts about projects I’m working on.
But it is a required retreat, and that isn’t always healthy either. So I am going to simplify again, ease my way out of the trench. This afternoon I heard an ancient John Denver song I have not heard I believe since I’m seventeen years old, and it made me remember the simplicity of being seventeen, the innocence. Ironically I was very plugged into events and society back then. About to go to college for journalism made me aware of things around me, and like Woodward and Bernstein (younger readers can go Wiki them now) I was going to be uncovering the next scandal, so I wanted to know what was going on. But it seemed different, and I think it wasn’t because the times were more innocent or that less corruption infiltrated the government and businesses and colleges, but because there was less coverage, less inundation by media and watch-dog groups, Go Pro and Facebook posts, and Twitter, and on and on.
I was on a bench this morning at the beach next to another bench with a guy about my age, emaciated, deeply burned black skin, who looked as if he hadn’t been in a shower in a while. He said, “This might be the most beautiful morning in a very long time!” At 7:30 it was about 68 degrees and the sun still hadn’t risen so high. I agreed with him. He went on, “This tells me it is going to be a good day.” Again I said I was certain he was right.
“What is it you do? You on vacation? Where you from?”
“No I live here. I’m just out for a walk before headed to the office. I teach.”
“Where do you teach?”
“Today I’m at TCC. Tidewater Community College.”
“Oh that’s absolutely fine! I never made it to college. I could have! I got out of the army and could have gone to college but I never made it there. What do you teach?”
“Oh well I’ll tell you what you oughta do! Bring them students down here and have them write about this beautiful day! This’ll inspire them.”
I agreed. We were quiet a moment and I fixated on what a tremendous suggestion that was.
“You know I was going to ask you for some money but I can’t now.”
I reached for my wallet. “Oh I’m sorry, absolutely, it isn’t a thought! Let me give you enough for breakfast at least.”
“Absolutely not,” he said. “We’re friends now and I don’t take money from friends. I’ll ask one of these fine tourists from out of town.”
I handed him a five. “I’m actually from New York, originally.” He smiled and took the five.
We talked a few minutes more and I left. We don’t have enough conversations like this. We don’t talk enough about nature, about sunrises and breezes. We listen too much to the wrong information. I’m turning toward simplicity; at least I’m going to try again. I don’t want to be homeless on an oceanfront bench, for certain, but that was still the most valuable conversation I’ve had all day.
I headed to campus singing to myself. For the life of me I couldn’t remember what I had to do that was so urgent.