Last night I went to a water aerobics class at a local pool and got there early as usual. The night was cool and the water, warm, and the sky was filled with stars. As I was the only one in the pool I half heartedly began a few laps. First I swam breaststroke as that is my relaxing mode, and then I did my dolphin turn over and began my favorite backstroke. I found it hard, initially; to continue my path across this pool I know so well but had never swam in at night time. The steam from the warm water created a thick mist which flowed in unexplained currents across the water. The night air chilled my arms and the top of my head yet the clouds of steam entranced me in a way that was mystical and very magical. I felt almost hypnotized by the appearance of sky and mist and then more sky and more mist. When the other members of the class began to appear in the pool I felt as if I were a part of the cast of Cocoon . People entered the pool with a great silence and yet a familiarity with each other. There were proper introductions all around of me, “the new kid” and I was welcomed to the class led by a very funny woman. I allowed myself to be directed by the leader for a while and then noticed I was disregarding the instructions and simply swimming where ever I wished which was mostly back to the backstroke which had produced this amazing feeling of hallucinogenic drugs but without having to swallow anything. I remarked several times to my fellow class members that the backstroke was definitely euphoric and the sight of the steamy water interspersed by the clouds was something they should see but I had no persuasive power.
I think I must have some type of autism as I know my behavior must have seemed odd to others but I really didn’t care. I just wanted to be lost again in the dream of the mist and the pleasures of the hemisphere. There is a reason I live alone, I know this.
There are many of us who live alone and some of the time it is a good thing and some of the time it feels lonely but I am not certain I know how to live in the company of others. Maybe I never did. I have always had this ability to see magic which I refuse to give up. People have found it annoying in me but I find it a secret treasure. I am very grateful that it is there in my mind and has refused to leave me all of these years.
I startle easily, am very sensitive to fragrance unless I have chosen to have it under my nose, and dislike loud and harsh sounds. My mother drank while pregnant, smoked L and M cigarettes and was heavily sedated while I was being born. Most of us boomers had the same kind of mother. In those days mothers didn’t think about all the things mothers have to think of today. When my very serious Grandfather visited my mother after giving birth in the hospital she was smoking. He knocked on the door to her room and she threw her cigarette in the drawer of the nightstand and told him to come in. The trail of smoke from the drawer never seemed to cross his attention and she told me the story with laughter in her voice every time. It is a funny story.
Life brings you stuff to deal with every day that may or may not be stressful, painful, difficult or joyful. Most of us worry a lot about things that never happen. Most of us live in the future all the time and constantly create fantasies that sometimes happen and sometimes don’t. In this New Year it is a good thing to try to stay in the present moment and find your own magic there. Maybe it is a glimpse of moss covered rock or heron fishing for lunch, or maybe it is the turn of an ear of your children, or maybe a conversation of a stranger you overhear, or maybe it is the steam from a pool you are swimming in at night.
I loved night swimming as a child and my mother would drive us up to the country club pool near where we lived in her glamorous car with her hair tied back like Audrey Hepburn and she would play old Frank Sinatra songs on the radio which would fade in and out according to the hills and dales of Connecticut. Her eyes would soften as she turned each curve and though we were right there sitting up high on the back of her convertible car we could have been anywhere as she was lost in her magic. I was happy to see her face glowing in the moonlight and her slight smile as she drove wistfully into the night. Happy she knew how to create magic for us and happy to find the pool, deserted and waiting.
There are a million people out there who haven’t had the new year come yet. Billions of us. All have some feeling of hope or loss or depression or gratitude. Here in Hawaii where there are many on vacation the air is filled with the heaviness of night and plumeria, sorrow and breathtaking joy, expectation and loss, fellowship and loneliness. The evening plays out against a sky of purple bruised by the day and backlit by the lost moon. The New year….what will it bring? To so many of us so much has been lost and so much is unknown. Our world is as fragile as the frangipani leaf which turns brown at the touch of a human hand or the monkey fruit which promises sweetness but tells a falsehood. I see the many families here on the beach: some who are young and adoring of their children and some with old fathers on their second or third set of children who seem desperate to see the horizon believing it will hold the youth they lost some time ago. There are couples who touch with tenderness and couples who never touch at all. The evening spreads out in front of all the world and unites us with its darkness. If we reach out a hand we can find comfort yet some of us rarely do. Families don’t always teach us safety and we have to find it on our own wearing miner’s caps with lights and bearing torches into the darkness. The journey into the underworld has a reward which we can savor bit by bit if we remind ourselves of this reward. It’s joy and light and comfort is there for all of us. Set a resolution to keep the light in your mind’s eye and follow that path. In this life you can either be joyful or sorrowful and the joyful have more fun which is what the Dali Llama says we should aspire for.That’s my message to all of those I love. Have fun!