Last Wednesday, I went for a walk after a long drive. The air around me seemed restless. It fit with my own feeling of restlessness and uncertainty. The sky was full of billowing clouds, dark and light and billowy. Gusts of wind came from different directions.
When I walk around my neighborhood in Lowell, I can see and feel change and uncertainty. I cross Dutton Street and the Merrimack Canal and pass a single Willow tree, standing tall but with a tired look.
I walk past a no trespassing sign, guardrails, and cement walls with messages from graffiti and street artists; by a vacant lot with grass and cement blocks, one of the few fields where people can take their dogs to play. I listen for killdeer overhead. They fly between lots. I wonder where they will go when building begins anew in these spaces.
It is just a matter of time.
Growing attached to flora and fauna in a city means imminent heartache. Gravel and cement blocks have taken the place of trees which once lined the Hamilton Canal. When I walk by their former home, I wonder if I am the sole person in this city to witness the Orioles hidden in their foliage, their “che che che che” the only evidence of a fleeting presence.
Northern rough-winged swallows flit in and out of small cracks in the pour cement canal wall by the Appleton Mill. I watch them preen from the wires run from one the Appleton to the Jackson across the way.
I walk to a small gym with a tiny pool in the basement. In the water, I let loose my restless soul. Eyes closed, I move through the water and try not to think but only feel my body touching the coolness of a world where I am only a visitor.
It is my weekly meditation, moving through this water, a time when I can move my arms and legs, feel my body, and glide. For a few minutes, I close my eyes and my mind as best I can, and I do not always succeed.
Outside again, I walk along a gravel path beside a canal. The wind is ripping, and my wet hair is flying around my head. I look down to see a tiny creature, impossibly fragile, hanging onto a pebble for dear life.
I cannot imagine how this creature can survive in a world that would seem to tear it apart without the slightest sense of remorse. I feel fragile in my small, human body but am humbled by the sight of another being moving through its own path in the only way it knows how.
Other souls are less lucky…or maybe more so, to fall victim to the the course of the universe and life in an urban setting.
I seem to move along my path by making mistakes, pushing the limits of people I love, and reflecting on how I can respond in healthy ways to the rush of energy I feel coming at me every day from all directions.
The more I look within, the more self-aware I become with regard to my own sensitivities. The more aware of my own self I become, the more sensitive I am to the pain I sense in other creatures, to hurtful behavior aimed by those with power to those with fewer defenses, and the more difficult I find it to protect myself from all of this energy.
As the saying goes, my skin is not very thick. I do not wish to become less sensitive, but I am finding that I need to learn ways to be witness to all of this activity without being completely overwhelmed by it.
For now, I will remember the winged one and hope it is safe, wherever it may be.