Just another rainy morning
Last week, the weather forecasts for Vancouver were lousy, predicting rain or heavy rain every day. On one of those mornings I resigned myself to doing an indoor workout at the rec centre, figuring if I went out on my bike, I’d soon get drenched.
When I finished my gym workout, it still wasn’t raining. The air was mild and soft. I felt great after my workout and wanted to be outside longer, so I decided to take the long route back to my apartment, walking on the Inlet Trail.
It was 10 a.m. on a weekday morning, but as usual there was plenty of action around the rec centre. Two groups of soccer players were practising kicking goals on the artificial turf soccer field. People were walking, some with kids or dogs; mothers played with toddlers in a small artificial turf area. High in the sky above I saw two birds of prey circling together. Usually they are solitary.
I thought about how much I love my neighbourhood. It provides for so many of the simple daily activities that make up the regular fabric of my life: my bike rides, gym workouts, Starbucks and Cobs (for my staples of coffee and healthy bread), the library, and the Inlet Theatre, where I can go to special presentations and the monthly movie nights.
Someone who lives alone in one of the nearby condos (like I do) can always feel connected other people in the neighhourhood. The bike paths and trails are usually busy with joggers, cyclists, and walkers, many of them with strollers or dogs. In the evenings and on weekends, the soccer field becomes animated with the energy and noise of the players and their fans, and bright lights are a beacon against dark rainy nights.
On weekdays, though, the soccer field is usually empty (or nearly so), and I’m free to do sprints on its perfect springy surface. Today, I just strode quickly across the field, avoiding the soccer players, on my way to the Inlet.
When I reached the trail by the water’s edge, I noticed there were hundreds of geese and ducks resting on the flats beside the water, and a few birds in the water. Without thinking about it (at first), my eye took in the pleasing looks of those tidal flats protruding from the water, covered with the neat shapes of the birds. I noticed how motionless they were—there was just the occasional rustle/spread of wings or the odd bird shuffling a few steps. Their collective lack of motion transmitted a kind of peacefulness to me. I stopped at the bridge, thinking, “They are content doing nothing. I can stop and do nothing for a moment too.”
The car traffic of Murray Street was close by, yet for those moments I could forget about it, and my whole world was that bit of the wild, the vast sky overhead, the hundreds of birds, the trickle of streams joining the Inlet that leads out, eventually, to the Pacific Ocean.
I don’t often read poetry, but that morning, before going to the gym, my editing work had introduced me to poet bill bissett’s unique writing style. And I think it was because I had been immersed for a little while in his philosophical mindset that I was ready for that contemplative moment at the Inlet.
The lines I’ve copied below will quickly reveal the quirkiness of bill’s spelling and punctuation.*
ther is mor thn wun banana peel 2 slip on in fact ther ar
a multitude uv availabul peels redee 4 us at anee millisecond n all
thees send ups make humour out uv almost all our intensyuns
almost all our egos
Initially, I thought that this was just gimmicky. Then I realized that by being forced to slow my reading dramatically (in fact it was best to read out loud), I was adapting to the poet’s rhythms and had more time to think about his meaning.
I liked what bissett wrote about the banana peels that are always waiting for us. I’ve always believed that we can plan only so much. Luck and fate play such big roles in our lives. When a banana peel trips us, are we ready to be humbled, or to be led onto a different path? Or simply to appreciate the view from the ground?
That morning, two tiny experiences led to my Zen moment. One was unexpected: my first reading of bill bissett’s words. The other was a routine that I have repeated hundreds of times, my familiar walk along the Inlet trail.
By opening myself completely to both of these experiences I received my small but perfect interlude of serenity.
* This is a short excerpt from an email-exchange interview between Maidie Hilmo and bill bissett that will be published in the upcoming issue of the UBC journal Canadian Literature.