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play of light

Friday afternoon I found myself in a funk. I was home from school, a week’s worth of postponed, pleasant tasks stacked in my mind, and nothing sounded appealing. I ate my favorite snack and could barely taste it. I reclined on my bed with a magazine and wanted to claw out its glossy pages. I felt all the unnamable angst of a slump-shouldered teenager and all the impatience such a posture typically inspires in me.

I grabbed my yoga mat and hopped on my bicycle for the beach. As I rode the world was reaching out to me the way it always does: flowers spilling over the sidewalk, trees tossing the first of their colored leaves like a confetti shower. I unrolled my mat on the grass above the water and took in the beauty of the afternoon. I scribbled in my journal, determined to pinpoint the source of my ennui.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. I saw delightfully absurd things at the beach: a cigar box next to a Sesame Street DVD sleeve at the foot of a tree, a Norfolk terrier wearing a cravat. I was moderately charmed, but mostly I just wished I’d thought to bring my camera. I did a little yoga and thought about how it usually makes me feel so good. You’re doing yoga at the beach, you idiot, I thought to myself. Cheer up already.

But I didn’t. I mean, I was far from miserable, but the whole evening I felt a little off. I was with my precious fiancé, filling the hours with all the small tendernesses that usually scour me back to shiny, but who was I? A woman who ate her tuna melt then wanted ice cream she didn’t have. A woman thoroughly unsatisfied by the chocolate-covered apricots she consumed in place of the ice cream she craved. Not my favorite version of me.

It was another fifteen hours before I’d settle into something like my customary contentment. Finally I’d sit down and meditate for fifteen minutes, and in that time I would fix my eyes on a bit of sunlight reflecting off the floor. My mind would scroll through snatches of Rumi and Richard Rohr, but it was that illuminated patch of hardwood that would shift my sight.

Clouds drifted across the sun and the patch went from golden to gone, then back again. At times the shift happened so quickly that my eyes registered a dark splotch where the light had been. The sun never went anywhere, of course. I was merely watching the play of light.

So that was it. I got still. I looked at the floor. I stopped trying to count my blessings, stopped trying to mentally flog myself into happiness.

I rode to the beach with my camera in my basket. The flowers continued to reach their scrawny arms toward me. I thanked God that no eco-conscious citizen had removed the cigar box and Sesame Street litter from the grass. There was no terrier in a cravat, but how often does a person get to see that? Instead a man was flying a great black serpent of a kite, and a little girl ran through the sand after it.

I sat on a bench and began to write this blog entry. Was I happy? Sure. And what’s more, I was no longer convinced that I’d been unhappy the day before. I felt like a patch of hardwood floor, no more itself when it reflects a little more light. The sun continues to shine. Let the clouds move on through.

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