naturally present

May 31, 2023


Years ago, fresh off a small town bus, I was alone at a city crosswalk alongside dozens of strangers. I felt a collective impatience urging the “do not walk” signal to change.  My impulse was to notice everything as if I had been enlisted to catalogue it.  


Sunlight reflecting off a bus windshield. Signs with catchy colours and slogans. The backs of those near me and the facial expressions of those on the opposite side of the street.  Engines roaring, horns honking and conversation snippets. Exhaust and floral perfume.


My heart was racing and I began to perspire. All this overwhelm at a mundane yet busy crosswalk due to the power of unchecked dysregulation in the face of too many sensations.  


But what was the point of all those people at the same spot impatiently waiting, the compulsive noticing and ensuing panic?  Where were we all going?  Did it matter?


“At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face”.


Fast forward three decades to the rhythmic dip, dip and swish of my canoe paddle through cool, calm spring waters. This time, the backdrop is towering trees watching over the chattering birds, an ancient turtle swimming below, and a duck family out for a swim.


But why is nature more calming for me than my city experiences?  Even in nature, there are things to notice and catalogue but the internal pressure to do so is curiously absent. 


A gentle awareness of the drop of sweat escaping from the bandana on my head and trickling down the back of my neck.  The contact my bottom makes with the seat in the canoe. The feeling of the smooth paddle in my hands and the resistance on the paddle as it pushes through the water. The slowing of my breath.  My shoulders drop down and I sigh.  I follow my impulses as to where to look. 


There is no eternity in this fluid moment.  No hopes or to-do lists. No asking why or what’s next?   No thinking myself into the present moment. This is all there is.


“We live and move by splitting the light of the present, as a canoe’s bow parts water.”


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