Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Bigger Boat

February lingers. I can feel her in each breath, each gust of wind that slaps my face, each bitter nugget of snow that finds its way between the cuff of my jeans and down alongside my ankle. I can see it in the icy blue of the sky just before the sun sets. Winter's tenacity is unmatched, except, perhaps by that of cockroaches. And maybe Cher.

And all we can do is hunker down, pull our collars tightly around our necks and plod through for a few more excruciatingly long weeks. Were winter a shark (and I'm not convinced she isn't––a great roaming white monster with unmoving black eyes, fixed and determined, focused on a single objective) we would all play the role of Roy Scheider's character in Jaws, who proclaims, upon first seeing the beast, "[We're] gonna need a bigger boat."

The park has seemed like the belly of that shark all week, smooth and cold and also treacherous. But Duncan has been with me, joyful and impervious to it, warming me even as my ankles and wrists have struggled against the ever-searching wind.

It's difficult to trudge through the blowing snow and cold and see it as anything other than what it is. My boots work wonders, but I need goggles and today I would've felt much more comfortable astride one of the Taun Tauns from The Empire Strikes Back. The wind was cruel, the snow was like sand, fine and sharp and relentless in its pursuit of soft, warm places. It's difficult to enjoy walks like this when all you can think about is getting home. But it was while watching Duncan throw himself about that I simply stopped struggling and let the walk take me where it wanted, let the world transform from a cold, empty park into something more. I stood ankle deep and watched the snow slide toward me, making a soft hiss as it came at me and I had the strange sensation that I was moving forward, gliding just over the surface of the park watching the ground move toward and then beneath me. It was like moving without moving. And then I remembered fishing off the Osborne Bridge over the Snake River with my grandmother and my sister. We loved the bridge because the swallows built their nests on the underside and we'd watch the birds come and go by the hundreds, perching on the edge of their nests, greedy and sharp toothpick beaks emerging and chirping wildly for food. But the real magic of the bridge––aside from Grandma's peanut butter sandwiches or the L'il Smokies we'd snack on––was when we faced south and watched the river move away from us, there was a moment of discombobulation when we felt like we were moving. Like the bridge was the back of a giant boat working its way upstream. The water wasn't moving, we were. We'd clutch the rail and hang on because there was always a brief moment of vertigo while our brain tried to catch up to our eyes. Standing in the park as the snow rushed toward me felt like being on the bridge, and for a moment I could taste the peanut butter and hear the stories Grandma used to tell or the songs we'd sing about Joe Cogan's goat, or the one about the little dog named Jack who lost his tail on a train track ("Wagon wagon" ).

This is when my walks mean the most, when simply being present and attentive leads me to new places. Or old places. It's walking meditation, time travel, the biggest boat in the world.
Photo of complete and utter strangers on top of Osborne Bridge courtesy of Google Images

1 comment:

Lori said...

Interesting side note: Did you know Roy Scheider died a few weeks ago, of multiple myeloma? He was being treated at the University of Arkansas Medical School, one of the leading centers in the world for this sort of cancer, and where my sister is an R.N. She said she saw him daily for a couple of months, and that he truly was a very nice, interesting man.