“To know a place, like a friend or lover, is to become familiar; to know it better is for it to become strange again.”-Rebecca Solnit, Savage Dreams
Space is changing. Or my conception of it. Or together we have negotiated a new way to be with one another. The thought of moving between two places now contains the rich content sandwiched between departure and arrival. The navigation is not time lost or wasted energy. It is part of the journey that stretches a lifetime, certainly. But that center is more immediately bound to the experiences before and after.
It is the present moment that we’re constantly ‘getting through’, rarely accepting the experience that contains us. We fight the walls that hold us.
A fullness can be found in active engagement with transition. In the filling of the blank spaces between, space becomes place. Even the endless drive along paved highways qualifies as a legitimate experience, worthy of attention. Even if travel by car is not my preferred mode of movement, that does not justify the temporary (but repeated) exit from my life. All becomes dull and unimportant, until I turn my senses back on once I arrive wherever it was I thought I needed to get to before my life could continue.
In full occupation of here and now, nothing is wasted. Here is everywhere. And everywhere worthwhile.
A bike ride through the Avenues and onto campus for an appointment is not an inconvenience. The ride is an opportunity to feel the terrain moving beneath me, the light in colors across my eyes, in my hair. The wind pushing me forward and back, meanwhile rustling against pavement. It is a chance to test my body against space. To see how much physicality my mind can tolerate before wandering back into itself. It’s another attempt at connection-- to the 3rd Avenue bike lane, the Stop ‘n’ Go on the corner of K and 3rd, to my lover whose house casts just the shadow of his presence, the foothills of the Wasatch range looming over a collection of humble homes.
Through the shrinking of stuck points on a map and checklists in my mind, the texture of my day smooths to a velvety blanket of sumptuous sensations. It is not all easy. But I try to show up for it. To greet each place like the old friend it is.
Now I softly approach this neighborhood, this city even, like that moment in a friendship when you realize something substantial has been built. Accumulated time in proximity and entangled experiences have provided the material for a solid frame to support shared comfort. Now we can go deeper.
Or this is the moment when you encounter a friend whose decades have mingled with yours. You may see her often, hear her voice like a fixture of your environment, like the wind itself. But this time she is somehow new. The realization strikes that the experiences that shape her continuously--and especially between this visit and the last--make her different, always. It is a gamble even to interact with her as though she is a stagnant creature and not relentlessly growing. You have new eyes and she has new skin. You both brighten into a more accurate reality.
If I can approach my drive across town this way or my walk to class, perhaps I can also navigate my human relationships with the enjoyment that comes with raw awareness: Tasting time from its first fragrance until the sensation slips into the yet unconscious interiors of my body; staying present to whatever the path between the reality of now and my flailing hope for the future might require.