Sometimes my mind gleefully races into the future with far too much abandon. And many of the stories that I talk and write about deal with the past, which at times traps my thoughts in seemingly endless recital. Do I ever live in the present?
I went to sleep on Friday night thinking about the near future, of going out to dinner at Fossett’s to celebrate Keith’s birthday the next evening. But for some reason, I dreamed about the near past, of being back in the classroom, standing in front of my students. I was ready to start the lesson when I heard a voice telling me, “Be present.” And then I woke. It was time to get up and start the day.
Heathcliff and I walk first thing every morning. Rain or shine, cold or hot, dark or light, it’s my God time. That voice stayed with me on Saturday morning as we sauntered down Vanaprastha’s driveway switchbacks to check out new sounds, scents, sprouts and sticks. And my mind wandered back to a recent New Yorker magazine review of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, under the direction of Mike Nichols and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman.“…Willy, for all his fervent dreams of the future and his fierce argument with the past, never, ever, occupies his present. Even as he fights, fumes, and flounders, he is sensationally absent from his life, a kind of living ghost. It is existence, not success, that eludes him. He inhabits a vast, restless, awful, and awesome isolation, which is both his folly and his tragedy.”
“Be present,” I heard again.
About six-o’clock that evening at Fossett’s, Keith sat across from the large windows facing the lawns and gardens of Keswick while I, seated to his left, looked across the dining room. Both of us watched and reported well-choreographed dramas: for Keith, birds participating in epic competition for nesting areas, and for me, servers timing arrivals, presentations and departures of people, food and drink with great precision. “Be present,” I heard again.
Typically, I couldn’t finish my meal and asked for a doggie bag for Heathcliff. After his hip-hop dance celebrating our homecoming, Heathcliff sat and waited for his “share of the kill”, which he ate with great pleasure. Then he settled down with us for the rest of the evening, living in the moment, grateful for pack membership and food, doggie bed and sleep. “Be present,” I heard again, and be grateful for this moment, I thought.
Quick, right now, be present. For what are you grateful?