|Every moment on the beach
is potential for joy
She expects a serious walk or run every morning and a snuggle on the couch every evening. Picking up a ball or a stick ignites her whole body, turning her into a wriggling, leaping bundle of joy. Scolding about barking or pulling on the leash is forgotten. Vicki, the teacher of the dog training class that taught me the rudiments of puppy control, told me that dogs live in the moment. Reward must be immediate, and it's a vain hope to expect dogs to understand consequences two minutes after their behaviour. Right now is all there is.
In this time of uncertainty, with COVID infections spiralling in places that used to seem safe, with an unstable leader in the country to the south of us, with careers and entertainment on hold, I am told that living in the moment is the best advice. Snatch pleasure where you can find it and move past your worries. I am reminded of the poem by Scottish poet Robbie Burns, “To A Mouse,” which I used to share with my high school students. After apologizing to a mouse whose nest he has destroyed with his plough, Burns muses, “thou are blest, compared wi’ me!/The present only toucheth thee:/But Och! I backward cast my e’e,/On prospects drear!/An’ forward, tho’ I cannot see,/I guess an’ fear!” Looking back, he feels regret (“prospects drear”); looking forward, fear and uncertainty.
We ran out of trail, but Sadie made her own.
|Love the coffee moments
Yes, I think, Emily Dickenson is right, that “Forever is composed of nows.”
Yet if I dwell only on the moment, it is hard to shake off a sense of deep foreboding. My struggle these days is to try to find hope in the litany of disaster that fills the news. Injustice, death, cruelty, climate change, disease, violence – how can we go on without anticipating a future that makes us, like Burns, “guess an’ fear”? All very well to live in the moment, but what if that moment is dark and cold, if the choices made by the powerful reflect the worst instincts of our humanity? What if the moments are bleak and hopeless?
I have been able to sustain my spirit during dark hours by reflection, looking back and forward. Socrates’s oft-quoted truism, “An unexamined life is not worth living,” reminds us what life is about, and though it can be a curse and a blessing, our human ability to remember what has gone before and envision a better future keeps us from succumbing to the depths, getting lost in the moment.
A casualty of daily salute to
The COVID infection that has upended our lives grinds on. Our hope that it would end as the first wave subsided is drowned in dismal statistics reported daily from around the world and across the country. We have stopped daily 7 pm noisemaking, but precautions and restrictions continue. I yearn for my theatre group, my choir, my band, my neighbourhood parties. I long to travel, to visit my family, to hug and kiss long-lost cousins. I get through moments of longing by remembering what life was like before, and what it can be again.
Two elections are on my horizon -- the provincial election in BC, scheduled for next Saturday (I voted this morning in advance polling) and the one in early November in the U.S. I try not to fear the outcome, because if the worst happens, I can step back and take the long view, that change happens, that we can restore equilibrium by thinking not of the moment, but of the future.