Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Peripatetic Rumination

This week I am attending a meditation and writing retreat at the University of Toronto. This is a small piece I wrote after doing a walking meditation in The Philosopher's Walk, a small downtown park.

The sun hammers the pavement, and the hot city smells like an unwashed body- sour with sweat and decaying skin cells seeping into our hidden creases and private crevasses, a reminder that we are flesh, dying a little every day whether we live fully or not.

Under the broad-leafed trees the scent shifts to a thousand shades of green. Cool black mud gives way a little beneath my bare feet, a silent sigh offering a moist blessing to each sole. To walk without shoes on grass in the middle of the city reminds me that the earth here is the same earth I lie down upon in the wilderness by the lake where the loon calls. 

Here, away from the street, it is easier to breathe and remember that all death feeds life. The dark earth is made fertile with the bodies of old leaves and grass, and the bits of other barefoot walkers- rich food for the lawn. Freshly mown, the blades of grass are an impossible marriage of soft moisture and blunt endings, like a wet kiss cut short by somebody’s idea of “enough.”
Here, beneath the trees, it’s tempting to romanticize the non-human world, to feel dismay at what we do with the drab brush of busyness and productivity, to despair at how, when we move too quickly, a great sad certainty rises from our bodies like a dark mist.

But back on the hot sidewalk, my ambivalence for what we are gives way to an involuntary tenderness as I pass one small boy walking with his mother, asking his questions and holding her hand, his head full of auburn curls and curiosity. His navy t-shirt is emblazoned with a tease in tall letters: “WHAT HAPPENS AT GRANDMA’S, STAYS AT GRANDMA’S!”

I laugh out loud, and he looks up, his face tipped toward the blazing sun. Without stopping I call out as we pass each other, “I’d love to know what happens at Grandma’s.”

His mother smiles.

Oriah (c) 2012


  1. Perhaps it's better not to know what happens at Grandma's! I'm sure many parents would be scandalised.

  2. Beautiful prose Oriah. Yes, the "despair at how, when we move too quickly, a great sad certainty rises from our bodies like a dark mist." That's when I need to go beneath the trees x

  3. That's why I so love printed T-shirts.
    It makes it so easy and delicious to connect with each other sometimes. :)