“What does it feel like to be alive? Living, you stand under a waterfall. You leave the sleeping shore deliberately; you shed your dusty clothes, pick your barefoot way over the high, slippery rocks, hold your breath, choose your footing and step into the waterfall. The hard water pelts your skull, bangs in bits on your shoulders and arms. The strong water dashes down beside you and your feel it along your calves and thighs rising roughly back up, up to the roiling surface, full of bubbles that slide up your skin or break on you at full speed…For a joke you try to raise your arms. What a racket in your ears, what a scattershot pummeling!
It is time pounding at you, time. Knowing you are alive is watching on every side your generation’s short time falling away as fast as rivers drop through air, and feeling it hit.”
ANNIE DILLARD, The Abundance
It is frighteningly easy to sleepwalk through life. And I realised, recently that this is perhaps my greatest fear (aside from something awful happening to loved ones). That death will come like a thief in the night and I won’t be ready. I will have let the days slip by too easily and not paid attention to the things I ought to have. These short days that add up to my one, wild and precious life.
And it is troubling to think that how much time has passed since I last wrote here. And when I think back over that now lost time, I am aware of the things that have made me drowsy, the things that have caused me to waste valuable minutes, hours and days and those which have made life more luminous and bright, and caused my heart to swell and thrum within me.
Watching a few seasons of a certain medical drama, for instance, was definitely a waste of time and I even felt it to be so whilst I was doing it *…and yet! In The Abundance, Dillard writes of the dangers of drowning in your own spittle or waking up dead in a small hotel, ‘watching TV while snow piles up in the passes’, realising too late, that you were never truly awake, that there were real treasures to behold- like the Moray Eel (I’ll let you look that one up). I can quite well imagine my last words being ‘but-’ whilst simultaneously thinking of all the things I didn’t get round to doing because I was too afraid to try or wasn’t quite ready for it. And even if we are actively trying, there is a battle going on- our attention is constantly being fought for. We are surrounded by voices that demand to be heard, that seem urgent, pressing – like the latest news, fashion, gadget… but actually deliver little in reality. At the end of this deluge we are left feeling more hopeless, fragile and small.
Each of us, though, can identify things that are life-giving rather than life-sapping, that make our souls rise up and sing, make our whole being pay attention and be present, even as time whistles past. For me, these are: