The week in New York City was good, but also anxiety-inducing. Back in the middle of the exhausting teeming projects of the remnant of Occupy Wall Street, I unsteadily fumbled for my bearings — after nearly a month of down-time in Greece and Spain. Presently, I am feeling a little hazy, having just woke from a dissatisfying nap.
But then … I focus. On a detail. A sound. The haunted piano chords in the Sufjan Stevens song I’m listening to through headphones. The vocal harmonies. A crisp plucked acoustic guitar note. Or a suddenly real image in front of me: the three lanes of traffic this bus is stuck in at a near standstill; several bright suns reflected off the rear windows of SUVs; old train tracks running parallel to our right; ivy, weed trees, and litter filling the shallow ravine between tracks and highway.
I focus fully on any or all of these inputs, for a fraction of a second, and the focus overwhelms. The haze is pierced, the veil is ripped and gone. I am here. Present. I am alive. I am breathing. I am part of this miracle — this miracle that is all too easy to shut out, to relegate, to fall asleep to. We duck behind self-protective shields, retreat into mazes of anxious thoughts that dull senses and emotions, wasting beauty.
It’s not that this is an especially pretty picture, stuck in Friday afternoon summer traffic in a full Peter Pan bus, puttering along I-95N… with views of old decaying buildings, rusty tin roofs, rubble, and billboards. But I just looked out the window and spotted a big pretty rock, glistening in the sun.
How to stay awake? How to stay awake?