The sight of mountains slowly straightens the curve in my spine and my heart races, telling each vertebrae to align.
The urgent rush of water dissolves any trace of sleep remaining in my eyes and my lids raise with attentiveness.
I am awake, I am here, my body seems to say.
I’m not sure who I’m declaring this to.
The trees, maybe.
My hands clench the steering wheel, the white of my knuckles resembling the snow covering the tops of the hills.
My destination grows closer and I can already hear my boots crunching on the path filling a corner of my windshield.
Stepping out of the car, I am hit simultaneously by the sharp coldness of the air and the exaltation of having arrived.
Breathing in, I hold it and with my exhale, I say, I am awake, I am here.
Not every day is like this experience, with me fully acknowledging the sights and sounds surrounding me. I don’t always take the time to appreciate these things and rarely do I sit down to put them on paper. But this drive, these views and the feelings they brought me were unique. You only get one chance to have a first impression driving into a new state and this passage I wrote described my arrival to Oregon. It described my arrival to the Pacific North West and expressed the wonder at seeing something for the very first time.
I held this moment in my hand like watching a lady bug crawl over the cracks of your skin and cross the mounds of your knuckles. It seemed so fragile and in a second, it could fly away and disappear. I realize the sights of Oregon may not disappear but with time, the awe I feel towards them easily could.
My significant other and I took the time recently to go see a play. Another Fucking Bird it was called. Parts of it were funny, others intentionally cheesy, and there were a few moments that made you squirm in your seat at the realness of it. I sat watching an actor live out his life with the heavy mindset of “what could be.” The play followed the cliche drama of him lusting after someone who lusted after another while he ignored the girl who poorly hid her desire for him.
In the beginning of the play, a girl with a white dress pooling around her feet took center stage. She swept her hands out in a dramatic motion and if the audience took time to drag their eyes away from her plunging cleavage they could hear her pose the question-
“Are you here?”
Like I said, some parts were very cheesy but it was ironic or whatever, so it’s acceptable. If that statement weren’t enough, she paused and said louder-
“Are you really here?”
So I thought about it. I like to think I am constantly filled with gratefulness and awareness of people and my surroundings. But it can slip through and it feels like that terrifying moment on a long road trip. That moment where you blink, look down and realize you have driven for 80 or so miles without realizing it.
This play was that blink and the realness of it hit me. I could feel the warmth radiating off the lights onstage and imagined the heat the actors must feel. I could see the work that went into not only the memorization of their lines but the effort to make them heard as words falling from their lips, not a script. I felt the pressure of my loves hand on my knee as we both sat, captivated. There was no perusing of Instagram or distracting kisses, it was just us and this play.
I felt very present at that moment and upon hearing those words, pondering that one question, “Are you here?” I suddenly felt like I really was there. I felt the pressure of his hand guiding me out of the theater and the rain hitting my face as we walked to the car. I heard his truck begrudgingly start at the turn of the key and watched the lights blur as we drove home. I heard, saw and felt everything with a strong sense of awareness.
My significant other and I are soon to be thrown into the challenge of dating long distance. It is something we have had many conversations about, openly weighing the pros and cons aloud. We have faced each other with an out pour of love in our hearts while maintaining a realistic mindset. Even after coming to the decision of yes, we will try to make this work, my mind still races thinking of the upcoming struggle. My heart is heavy at the thought of him leaving soon and I can feel that weight with each thud.
We lay together one night, his head in my lap, and I just looked at him. Exhaustion filled my body but I fought sleep just so I could look at him. I was thinking of his inevitable departure, our opposite work schedules, and the reality that it would be weeks or months in between our visits. Here I had this beautiful soul resting on my legs and I was not there, not really. I was months ahead, focusing on those problems. I was mentally already alone in my home, missing him even as he lay breathing heavy sighs into my waist.
Then, a blink. He opened his eyes and it brought me right back. I shook the heaviness of these foreboding thoughts from my head and took another look at him. Instead of thinking of his voice through a phone, I heard it clearly, even if it was coated with a thick layer of sleep. I might have to look at pictures of him in the future but right here, in this moment, I had the real thing.
There are times I wish I had removed myself from the moment and taken the time to look ahead. My impulsive, kitchen scissors haircut is the perfect example of that. Another being the relationships I chose to focus on the infatuation aspect of instead of the lack of potential in them. Lord knows I wish I had saved some of that money I had when I decided to spend it “in the moment.” But my hair will grow back, those relationships brought me here, and I’ll make money, spend it, and make it again someday.
The ability to think ahead and remain present in life go hand in hand, I think. Arriving in Oregon without a job threw me into the daily cycle of applying for jobs, adjusting resumes, and writing cover letters. I was a ball of stress hunched over a computer screen every day. At the end of the day, I would stretch out and take a walk. I had done everything I could do that day in pursuit of a job and now it was time to look at this place around me. Doubts and fears had crept into my head throughout the day and I replaced them each with a new sight around me.
When my partner and I discussed the future, we settled on a decision. I am a full believer in thinking things through and since we both have, why dwell on it? We can enjoy each others company for now and the rest will come.
With the amount of self help books out there, I am sure there is one on remaining present in the moment. A book complete with a list of steps on how to not take things for granted in order to become the Best You. I thought about this as I took a walk today. It was raining, lifting the smell of pine off the trees and the wind carried it away in heavy gusts. There was no mantra in my head to hold me here or check list to ensure I took everything in. I thought about the possibility of being wholly present in a moment and if it was something to be attained by anyone or only those who have reached some level of nirvana.
These thoughts swirled in my mind and ironically, took me away from my walk. So I stopped. Like someone abruptly halting mid step as if to think “Did I leave the oven on?” I stopped and I felt the slight dampness of my hair sticking to my face. Standing there, I smelled the strong scent of the trees and heard the click of nails as a dog passed by me, curiously sniffing the frozen stranger. The spell was broken and I kept moving, not sure if I had come to any sort of epiphany. This will take many more walks and thinking but I confirmed with myself, for right now at least, I am here.