I was driving to work on Monday morning, listening to a podcast to fill the time. It was a conversation with Mary Oliver, a poet I had heard of once or twice. During that 30-minute drive, I learned that Oliver, now 79, has spent most of her life on Cape Cod, strolling the woods and fields and beaches with a notebook in hand, writing the most beautiful observations about nature — and human existence — that I have ever read.
I read this article the other day about what it takes to be a writer. The author’s theory is that the twin luxuries of money and time are the magic ingredients that divide those of us who dream of writing books from those of us who actually write books.
She’s probably right. If all of us aspiring writers had the money to quit our day jobs (and retreat to a private beach house whenever we are feeling stuck), we would probably finally put aside the excuses and write something.
Today I am 40. To my surprise, this milestone has prompted a lot of rumination over the last month or so. A lot of questions about whether I am living the life I really want. Whether my safe little existence in the same city where I moved when I was 24, thinking this place was just a quick stop on my life’s tour, has made me dull and uninspired.
I put the high chair in the basement seven years ago, when my daughter got old enough to sit at the table. At first, I kept it because I thought I might have another child. That window eventually closed, but the high chair stayed.
This high chair was not a family heirloom, but it was a solid wooden construction, rare among the plasticized aisles of Babies R Us. It had been a generous and unexpected gift from a family friend, who had memories of her own daughter in a wooden high chair.
I sat down to meditate the other night, feeling virtuous. Fifteen minutes later, the timer went off, and I realized I had just spent my “meditation” time thinking about tacos.
If the purpose of meditation is to get out of your head, to find some inner stillness, I was definitely doing it wrong. If the purpose was to ponder whether mushrooms or black beans would make a better vegetarian taco filling, then it was a smashing success.