“Helped are those who are content to be themselves; they will never lack mystery in their lives and the joys of self-discovery will be constant.”
Alice Walker, The Temple of My Familiar
It’s been incapacitatingly hot around here lately—okay, not Arizona hot, but the whole steamy mix of heat and humidity leaves me prickly. And in the middle of this heat wave, our AC just….petered…out. I’m crabby enough during the day when the mercury rises into the 90s, but when it’s sweltering at night, and I get all twisted in the sheets, constantly flipping the pillow in search of a cooler side… well, steer clear of the grumpiest version of me you’ll ever encounter, that’s my advice. Oh, and just for laughs, the most significant side effect of Tamoxifen, my new medical partner, one pill per day for who knows how long, is more of what I’m already dealing with, hot-flash-wise. Suffice it to say, the answer to the “Is it hot in here, or is it me?” query is, more than likely, “Um, probably both.”
And yet, despite the July weather and self-generated sweats, I’ve still been finding myself pulled out of doors, to walk around my reservoir. The key to these outings is shade, which there’s lots of, nearly all the way round. Shade, and the delight in being there when the air moves, just a bit. Shade, and a breeze, and maybe, if I’m lucky, the glorious wonder of a great blue heron flying low overhead, looking for all the world like some visitor from the Jurassic era. Even as the tropical climes dropout I am, it’s worth braving some sweat for a reservoir walk.
This place has sustained me for decades. It started as a destination I could bike to and snag dried up wildflowers to use for scale model trees, back in my undergrad pre-architecture studio assignment days. Somewhere along the way it became a venue for knocking off the quick 2-mile warm-up, before I headed to the gym to lift. Lately it’s become less an aerobic venue, and more a spiritual one. It’s my cathedral, this circuit. My solace. My joy, on those days when I see something lovely—which is pretty much always. My delight, when I run into friends. My pleasure, to smile my hello to the counter-clockwise travelers I regularly see, but whose names I don’t know. My temple, and my familiar.
I think I could sustain a post a week about my reservoir loops. It is such a touchpoint, so varied day to day, season to season. Being there makes me stop and look and listen, even when I’m full of thoughts that bubble up from elsewhere. I have days when I can barely remember parts of my perambulations, I’m so consumed with whatever’s going on in my head.
Then I have days when I am hyper-sensitized to the place: the play of light on the water, the change in perspective from one side to the other, sun in my face, sun at my back. It’s like meditating with my eyes open, letting my mind wander, then reeling myself in, back to the here and now. It’s a place that forces me to see that nothing stays the same, and everything comes around again. The view from where I started. The spring, the summer, the fall, the winter.
The yellow warblers have their babies and depart, and the mergansers return from wherever they’ve been summering. It’s the grand circle of life, writ in dirt and water and sun and sky, flora and fauna. It reminds me what truly matters, every time around.