Friday, October 26, 2018

walking season

I am walking through Morningside park and thinking that this is the time of the year I love so much. Autumn is the time of year the world falls, like Rahner says, into the mystery of God, like all things that must die. The Upper West Side in autumn is quintessential Madeleine L'Engle New York.

There is a strange piece of street art by the 1 train stop on 157th Street and Broadway, that features an asinine Bottom gazing at a mermaid Titania in a fish bowl—it is certainly grotesque. But something about it makes me feel—in a very pleasant way, that I am living in a fairy tale.

I am walking through Morningside Park now and there are dark cloud banks descending from the northern edge of the park. They are not dropping rain, just atmosphere. I am beating the pavement with my heels at my usual breakneck pace, until I realize I do not have to this time. I am actually on time for Mass. I can slow down.

And I do. I pocket my digital atlas, and I breathe. I walk like I am simply walking. I do not walk at a snail's pace, even when meditating, so it not necessarily the shift in tempo that causes the greatest change. No, it is rather some intention that has shifted. There is a different purpose to the walking.

Rushing causes a tightening of focus to the point that we can no longer really see anything other than our decision about what comes next. If every moment we are seeking next is simply the next thing in the long list of things we have strung together like pearls onto the necklace of our self—what's the good in that? Or rather, how can we possibly see the good in them?

As I walk, I am absorbing what I'm walking through. The walk's purpose has become nothing other than to notice and adore the world around me—the ivy climbing up the trees, the quality of light above the pond, the wonderful, ridiculous slopes of the stairs and the steep cliffs of the park—it's like a playground and a maze in here—and the raccoon lumbering through the crepuscular leaves bordering the path. "Oh hello, sweetie," I say. Thankfully the raccoon simply glances at me and ignores the diminutive worthy of the cashier at Food Lion.

As I walk over to Domenic after Mass, we linger for a moment in the soft gold gloom of the church, staring at the Ave Maria script circling the dome of the church. He stands, and we begin, unthinkingly, to walk out of the church at a normal pace—the way you walk when you’re simply trying to move from point A to point B. But then—
he or I—or both of us, make the same shift to walking not like bankers but like monks. We walk very, very slowly through the nave to the door, swiveling our attention from side-to-side, taking in the Jeanne D'Arc statue, the terrible small statuette of Michael, and the curve of the pillars. Simply, for a moment, taking in what is around us—for a moment, really opening our eyes to see things clearly.

And this, I think, is closer to prayer than most things.

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