Paying Attention (Day 77)

Sometimes when I’m swimming in the bay at the Albany Bulb it’s all so familiar I don’t see it at first; I’m just there, doing what I do day in and day out, a body moving through space, changing clothes, plunging into cold water, feeling and not feeling the sensations. Then I remember I have to write about it later and it’s like a switch flips; my senses turn on, and I’m suddenly THERE. 

Today was a day like that. I was halfway to the little tree before my whole, mindful self really arrived in the water. In the moment of arriving, the water changed from generic to specific; from cold grayish water to a soft tingle against my skin; rippling movement, reflecting the sun and shifting from gray to blue to green to silver and gold. I felt the energy in the mostly calm water, the pull on my legs and arms. I heard the sound of the birds, the train, the rhythmic kicking of my fins slapping the surface; none of these sounds as loud as my own breathing, strangely amplified by my earplugs. The briny smell of the bay intermingled with a watermelon smell that periodically wafted in on a breeze and which I cannot identify. And the irresistible smell of baking bread, floating in from one of the bakeries in South Berkeley. 

I imagine some people become writers because they are naturally attuned to the world around them, noticers of everything. For me, writing is the thing that saves me from going through life locked inside my head, oblivious to the sights and sounds, the smells and sensations that shape my world. Writing is the thing that makes me stop and notice, pay attention and relish the here and now. 

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