6 Unburned Pieces of The Mind
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20051009

Living Life Deliberately

In the periphery of change, October seems to render me in a contemplative state more so than any other month. It is mid-evening and I am sitting here in my chair looking out the window. The rain has been falling steadily for the last several hours and the balminess of this morning has given way to a damp chill. It would seem that the days of Indian summer we had last week are over. This storm tonight is ushering in the colder air spilling down from Canada. Come tomorrow, a coat definitely will be needed as I head out the door for work.

My cat seems to have sensed the change, too. After several minutes of looking out the window while sitting on the desk, it turns and gives my hand a nudge. Mewing, it pounces from the desk to the futon, and then climbs into its round bed and curls up into a tight ball. It isn’t too long before its slight snores start to punctuate the sound of the rain cascading off the roof.

I’m not sure why but it seems that I’ve become more acute with the events that have transpired in my day to day life, and I find myself savoring each day as if it were a gift. It used to be that I would dread thinking about the future. Even worse, though, was how I spent time agonizing on past events, either because of circumstance or choice, before finally realizing that what is done, is done. At one time I was a warrior; another, a teacher. And yet another role in my life was that of a husband and father. But now long since divorced and my two children beginning their own lives, it occurs to me that a life lived really is no more than a composite of experiences that shapes and forms who we are at various stages in our life. For once, I think I am beginning to understand and appreciate what this process of being and becoming is all about.

The wind has started to pick up and is blowing the rain into a pelting swirl against the building. I open the window just a crack. Each gust that comes now creates that eerie, inconsolable whistle of tormented souls. I turn the light off and then sit back in the chair, leaning back and stretching out my legs. It’s starting to rain even harder still. As I fixate myself to the sound of wind and rain, I find myself drifting back in memory to my childhood room at the time I was nine years old. Lying in bed, I listen to the branches of the Meliads with their twiggy fingers scratching, tap-tapping on my window as the shadows of their forms dance on my ceiling and wall. I remember my mother telling me not to worry, that these are friendly spirits, but even still, deep in my pillow I pull the covers up close and turn my head to the side.

Yawning, I am brought back to the present. I reach for my coffee mug and take a sip. Almost every October I’ve lived since I was discharged from the Marine Corps after sustaining a severe injury aboard ship has found me struggling with the question of purpose. And for all those thirty-four years since then, I haven’t had an answer. I’m still not sure if I do, but for the first time in my life I feel that I’m beginning to have a better sense of what this is all about. Reflecting on my experiences has made me realize that purpose in life is not necessarily the careers I chose, the relationships I had, or the family I brought to bear. Instead, it is, as Thoreau says, about having lived my life “deliberately” within those experiences, to “awaken” myself, and keep myself “awake” by having “an infinite expectation of the dawn.”

Looking out the window again, it occurs to me just how satisfying and enjoyable it is to contemplate the circumference of this odyssey called life, for doing so, I feel centered and firm just as surely as the four legs of this chair that I sit in. I stand up and head to the kitchen with my coffee mug. Rinsing it out, I call it a day. Retiring to bed, I await once more for the playful dance of the Meliads.

By S. L. Cunningham