In the unremarkable and hectic parking lot of a Trader Joe’s, I shut off the engine to my car but sit in place. David Bowie’s Life on Mars just came on the radio and I listen, intently, singing along to the chorus, until the last of the cymbals dies down. Only then, I grab the shopping bags and make my way into the market.
I have noticed this is happening more often. No, not sitting around in random parking lots. My stopping. When I run, I let go of my thoughts and my breathing more easily, and I savor the rapid hits to my nostrils: eucalyptus, pine, bottle brush, horse shit, making a precise inventory as my sneakers pound the asphalt.
For someone who has lived most of her life in a perpetual state of movement, I don’t rush much anymore. If I see something that pleases me, I will take a detour, to the point of even breaking my lifelong tenet of never being late.
Last night, I reread an Elena Ferrante paragraph four times, unable to keep on reading until the perfection of the words had sunk in. This morning, I obsessed over a Cynthia Ozick’s sentence until all envy had melted. I notice more.
Some would say it’s a by-product of having undergone cancer. Maybe. Looking close up at the grains of sands inching, and sometimes rushing, down the bottleneck of my hourglass, realizing the sand is finite, might have given me a better measure of what is worth stopping for.
It hasn’t changed my outlook on life or propelled me to make momentous changes but, now that I feel and look myself again, I laugh more and care less.
As I write this, on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, dogs napping at my feet, a shadow to the periphery of my right eye distracts me. I look up. A female deer is milling around my backyard: graceful, sinuous like a dancer, kind eyes, ears erect. I sit very still. I watch her sniffing the grill, picking up scents of fish and chicken, then approaching the glass sliding door. She peeks in, calmly, taking in the room, the sleeping dogs, me. After some hesitation, she moves over to the dining room window, and I get up, grab my phone and start shooting.
We stare at each other, female to female. I am not going to harm her, she must know.
A puddle of her breath fogs the glass that divides us. I deliriously think what I could offer her. She looks curious, poised, at ease: in 13 years I have lived here, having observed countless families of deer, I have never encountered one willing to come this close. I am enjoying the moment, a deep enjoyment I wouldn’t have experienced if I hadn’t looked up, if I had been too focussed on the screen in front of me.
The deer lazily circles the yard once more, munches on some plants, finds the dogs’ water bowl. Finally disappears down the hillside. It paid off to stop by our house.
It pays off to stop and pause, to break the perpetual movement. For the deer. For me. Even at a time when I see the future full of promise again, when I am busy making all kinds of plans. A balancing act between using time meaningfully and stopping to smell the roses. Or the horse shit.
Top image courtesy of sissimum