The Bus Back Home
I’m sitting in a bus back home from Washington D.C. to New York City in the company of two dear friends. It’s been a couple of hours now and watching the birds fly by, fluttering atop trees and open skies, has yet to become boring. I’ve been listening to a favorite playlist of mine, comprised of Indie rock and folk tunes I find fit for open roads. We played a few card games and nibbled on some popcorn, and now I’m back towards the window, watching the world from inside.
There's a strange beauty that approaches your heart when examining life in the moment and life at large. I'm not sure how to communicate the feeling of looking back on the years we’ve lived, on one time or another, on being a kid or a young adult, on turning 18 or 21 or 23, perhaps in time those years being 30, 50, 60. It feels beautifully, chaotically whole. It feels something akin to watching the trees pass by through a car window, when the shapes of green and brown mix like thick globs of gooey paint. The branches and leaves become streaks of soft color, a dancing parade of fluff marching by. It’s pretty in a way, being able to see it from that perspective, the act of something passing by so fast that the violence of going 80 miles per hour begins to feel quaint, still, and quiet. Looking through the glass canvas and losing focus of the shapes of the trees creates its own kind of beauty, its own feeling, its own state of mind that isn’t felt when you look at a tree on its own. The crevices and manifestations of wet moss are pretty, yes, each individual moment embedded in the dark cells of cedar wood deserve their own appreciation. But losing focus brings a different picture to frame, one that’s fantastic in a broader way. This broad, wide, whole perspective, the power of viewing every experience we’ve ever lived and realizing we can’t live them again, recognizing that all of this is a moving puzzle, never still, is a special gift. It is a gift because it reminds us that we’re still here, now, in the present day, the only reason why we’re able to look out the window at everything we’ve lived. It reminds us that being here, now, is an experience itself, birthed to grow into muddled memories and meaningful moments eventually mixed into those green, brown globs of paint.
Fluorescent, pastel shapes dance by, every joy, strife, feat, and defeat we’ve ever lived choreographed into some crazy beautiful dance, displayed on the window by the trees outside.
And then you shift your focus, transition your eyes, and a new magic matriculates. You trail a single tree until it’s out of view, find another tree to focus on, and begin hopping from one to the other, as if your attention portrayed from within the car was a flying squirrel outside the car, hopping from branch to branch. You’re out there, in the thick of it all, no longer watching it go by from afar. It’s a crisper, clearer, more defined vision of the scenes trailing by when you center in on each event, more of the details and less of the mass in motion. No longer whole, but single, though no less beautiful. The way the trees, individual with their changing leaves, come together to create that dancing parade of color you saw before. That’s its own feeling. When we see things as they are, when we live things as they are. We feel something different, something raw, something real, in the time before now turns to then. We can feel it most when we’re undistracted, when we recognize what the saxophone actually sounds like coming from the center of the park or feel physically the joy expressed in the faces of our friends. When we savor the bottle of wine sipped with a significant other or laugh at our shared miseries and quirks, only to laugh even harder once we recognize these laughs, set to place and person and time, aren’t to be shared again. We use the word “serendipity” to describe special moments acquired by happenstance, but is life itself not that?
Single trees, distinguishable only for a few seconds, whiz by individually, almost yelling at us to look more closely. Look! So I look, I look at the window, how the light trails through its humidified streaks. I look at my friend, how peaceful he seems mid-nap. I listen to the song playing through my earphones, how it reminds me of the things I care about. All these things. In this moment.
And that’s when I want to squeal the most delightful scream that all of earth can hear, one of an infant, out into the sophisticated air and savvy light of New York City. Because I’m not sure what’s more beautiful, the fast, ephemeral river of our memories we call life, more thunderous with each chapter we live, or the slow, steady stream of each moment we live as it occurs, the trickles that feed into the river at large. They’re both so emotionally charging that they seem to be cheering us on, surely changing our lives without our request. The important thing is that we remember to look out the window. Pay attention. Else we might miss both.