On the second day of summer, I sit on a bench alone on the Eastern Promenade in Portland, gazing at one of the world’s most gorgeous views. I see scattered boats speckling the harbor and hear their halyards clapping and slapping the masts. The azure above holds blankets of clouds that somehow do not block the rays of sun from sparkling up the water. Water sprites, I used to call those glints. My young children teased me, “Mom sees spirits in the ocean.”
Glittery sparkles offer magic. When I come to this familiar favorite place to sit, read, write or hike, I crave something that their shine, their light, freely gives. I come for space. Or companionship sometimes; I have friends who live nearby and pals who meet me here to walk. I love a vast vista, something big and panoramic to help stop my small mind from its hamster-wheel circles.
I come with a hunger, a longing, a yearning. But I don’t actually know that until I feel the “ahhhh” in my bones and sense an inner softening, an inner smile when I stop and pay attention to all this beauty. As David Whyte says in his poem, The Journey,
“Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that
wedge of freedom
in your heart”
“Ohhhh,” I say to myself, “I didn’t know I needed this.”
Today thousands of runners compete behind my bench in the Old Port Half Marathon. Spectators along the route cheer for them, “Lookin’ good.” “Almost there.” “Great job!”
I have my back to the road race and face Mackworth Island, Fort Gorges, openness, spaciousness, and the shimmering water sprites. Loud voices and foot plants roll on behind me. Breathless runners wave “Thank you,” to race marshals. A few yell, “I like your hair” to a man who roots for them, a man with a bald scalp striped with Pride-happy rainbow colors.
I feel like a slacker seated here. Runners, joggers, walkers hurry behind me. Sailors, fishing boats, and ferries all move, busy on Casco Bay. Cyclists bomb down the long gradual East End hill. In the work I do, we often invite clients and students to do what is right in front of them; to do what needs to be done here and now. In full slackiness, I ask the water sprites, “What should I do?”
No answer comes, just the play of their shiny surface-dance reflecting the sun. So I take a huge life-pause, halt the hamster wheel, notice that summer has arrived, feel the firm breeze mess my hair, and hear the too-toooo of the Narrow Gauge Railroad horn. The blare of a shrill siren intrudes on the festivities. An ambulance approaches. Medics come to the aid of a falling runner I would otherwise have jumped up to help. As I sit, take it all in and do nothing, I realize, as Max Erhmann noted in his Desiderata that “no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should,” without my meddling, without my control. So I sit, watch, breathe, and allow life to be what it is.
I look toward the water sprites again as if to ask, “Is it ok to do nothing right here, right now?”
And they wink at me.