A few days ago, as Josie lingered with her snout deep in the weeds – “reading the newspaper,” as a fellow dog-walker once observed – I watched a girl on roller skates sidestep, arms outstretched, down a grassy slope. She wore old-fashioned skates, the kind with four wheels and a rubber stopper like a nose on the end of each boot. Suddenly I was back under a rainbow of disco lights at Interskate 91, Beat It pulsing, skates thumping over the hardwood floor.
Nearby a young man had slung a striped hammock between two white pines. His backpack resting at the base of one tree, bike propped against the trunk of the other, he stood tilting his phone this way and that, angling for the perfect shot, patient as the hammock twirled like a double-dutch jump rope in the early spring breeze.
Making our way through the neighborhood, I caught the almost-familiar scent of something spicy – cumin or maybe curry — wafting through the open window of a basement apartment. The food smelled nearly but not quite like the dishes our Yazidi friends prepare for us when we visit.
Two doors down a new scent, the nostalgic smell of hot dogs on the grill, whisking me back to Fourth of July cookouts on the backyard picnic table. Josie smelled it too, stopping to lift her quivering nose in the air.
Tipping my head back to gaze up at an enormous sycamore, I saw that its bare branches were hung with hundreds of seed balls dangling like Christmas ornaments. I picked one up from the ground and carried it like a cherry on a stem, gently so as not to crush it. When I got home from our walk I put the seed ball on a dish and placed it on my desk.
I’m halfway through my Lenten social media fast. After a month away from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I feel grounded. My body is grounded. My senses are grounded. My brain is even somehow more grounded. I hadn’t been aware of it until I dialed back the constant noise and distraction, but my thoughts had begun to feel like untethered balloons bumping along with the current, strings dangling.
Being grounded in my own body, in my own environment, in my actual real life, rather than constantly peering into other lives as they are presented on my cell phone screen, has given rise to a keen attentiveness. I notice the girl on the old-fashioned roller skates, the scents whispering through my neighborhood, the regal, whimsical Dr. Seussian sycamore tree.
I see that though it’s April, the magnolia buds are still tightly closed, fuzzed sepals clasping drowsing petals. Even spring’s overachievers, the daffodils, are biding their time, keeping their sunny yellow encased in their papery wraps. Everywhere there is something new and fresh and beautiful to see, to hear, to smell, to touch. Everywhere there is a sense of expectancy.
My life has a different kind of fullness these days – different from the bloated, pants-too-tight-after-a-big-meal fullness created by noise, distraction, input, information, images. Different from the full-of-emptiness one can sometimes feel from ingesting too much of other people’s lives as they are presented online.
These days I am grounded. I am full. Filled with ordinary sights, sounds and smells. Filled with the fullness of my own everyday, ordinary life.