An Ode to Being Alive
I'm into it
It’s an awfully interesting thing to be alive. I’ve been thinking about it a bit lately while walking my dog along the quiet bushy trails near our home. I must have read something about walking mindfully and it crosses my mind most days when we’re out. I take a few deep breaths and try to smell the salt in the air and the scent of the flowers. I think about the wind and the sun on my skin and maybe I’ll watch some colourful lorikeets absorbed in their own little lives. It’s a bit like deep breathing or meditation for me in that it’s an effort and hard to sustain. The moment passes and I’m back in my thoughts or a conversation with Angelica or I’m asking the dog to stop trying to kill the lorikeets. He’s a troubled soul.
Yesterday Wally and I were out walking late. We could hear waves and the wind in the trees and human noises; a party or two on every street. Small groups of friends and families were splashing in pools, laughing and playing music. It’s always busy down here this time of year but especially this year. It’s easy to find the crowds annoying at shops and cafes and beaches we’ve had to ourselves until now. We’ve been locals here a hot minute but we regularly echo the sentiments shared so eloquently here by an unknown surfer/poet:
The sign was up for a short time last summer but I think we can all agree the words are timeless.
Last night walking, all those Melbourne dog covid kooks seemed alright – disturbing the usual serenity a little, sure, but more than that. They seemed less like an abstract disruption to my experience and more like other people. I imagined wholesome little scenes of revellers doing strange human things like telling jokes or jumping in a pool and screaming ‘cannonball’, drinking too much and talking for hours about things which seem to them interesting and important. I was sure they needed it after what I assumed had been a difficult year for most of them without enough leisure time. I’ve always had a soft spot for leisure time, which sounds obvious. A good time is a good time after all, but it’s also more than that. When I go out and see friends and family I love, or do something for nothing but the joy it brings me: surfing or writing or travel… it makes me feel human.
Leisure time has always been an antidote to the functional part of life in which I feel most of us are a part of an elaborate growth and improvement machine, always striving for more. We can’t slow down lest we fall behind and we can’t win because there is no end. We can step out of function altogether though, and think about the wind in the trees or do a seriously impressively big cannonball. That’s leisure time for me - a chance to remember we are more than what we do and what we can get done because it feels like something to be alive.
It’s interesting to be alive statistically – that we exist though life is so cosmically uncommon, and even then, even here on our perfect planet at the specific time, two people met and made each of us specifically. But it’s not just a fancy bit of science or a statistical marvel, it feels like something to be alive. I’m in here and you’re in there, each of us like another little house with our own little party going on inside. I forget that sometimes, a lot actually. I abstract other people to the thing which disturbs my serenity or that carries deadly pathogens, cuts me off at an intersection or embodies some ridiculous view. There’s someone in there. It feels like something.
We’re quite pregnant currently and it’s strange watching our first son already alive and kicking about inside Angelica’s swollen belly. His whole world is currently contained inside another human. The steady drum of her heartbeat and the muffled sound of our voices from beyond that place, the cave which contains him, are a constant. I’ve been thinking about the 8 months of his life lived in there and what that feels like. People keep telling us to play music and sing and read to him, to stay calm and relaxed because he is already aware and absorbing everything.
At some point, he’ll realize there’s a whole world out here, expanding: more than the womb, more than the birthing suite or the home we keep him in. There’s more than the neighbourhood or the city, the country and different ways to think about the world. He’ll read and travel and have experiences that continue to push the known limits of his world and at some point, he’ll realize about other people. Inside all of them, there are whole other worlds waiting to be explored. He’ll get that one from his mum because I’m still getting my head around it.