The damp air clung to my skin like a small child to its mother. The rain was on its way and I knew I didn’t have a lot of time. The pink chalk scraped all the way under my finger nails. I cringed and let it be. I had spent the afternoon outside with my sister. We traced each other with chalk, creating people-sized outlines on the concrete behind our house. We lived on top of a great big hill with a nostalgic view and an ocean of deep, green trees.
Scraped up knees and bug-bitten skin, the first few drops began to fall. Our hearts filled with longing – we knew our masterpieces would soon be washed away with the mud and the insects. The concrete began to darken with the falling droplets. I anticipated something more, but settled gratefully for what was provided. The water took its residence in the cracks of our drawings, seeping and spreading. I stood and watched my work melt away – and I was okay with it.
Because every forming, young child eventually learns that chalk is temporary – it’s prone to destruction – it’s nothing more than dust.
Colored dust; designed for part-time consumption and childhood enjoyment.
When satisfaction was easier to attain,
But equally difficult to maintain.
And so I stood and took it all in. The bloody, pink and blue chalk, the weeping, dusty clouds, the swarming nits and icky worms.
I watched until the rain had beaten the life out of my homegrown imagery – there it went, gone for good. Never would I be able to mimic such a subpar, little kid piece of art,
And that was that.
There was no murky, intensive loneliness or sense of longing.
No attachment issues or tugging regret. No acknowledgement of lost time or wasted effort.
In those days, I was no mourner of time or expert on efficiency. I could appreciate things at face value. I could enjoy the little things because that’s what they were – little things.
But now, everything is different.
Here I am, 22 years old and utterly obsessed with doing things efficiently. There must be a method, a schedule, and, an alarm clock set for the next morning. There must be a plan, every moment must be full and meaningful. Every breath must fill a purpose.
At all times I must be learning something, painting something, writing something, catching up with someone, singing something, running somewhere, making flashcards, listening to music, reading something.
Talking fast, walking fast, and, thinking fast.
Always wondering where I’m going next and how I’ll get there.
I can’t spend hours on end outside scribbling with chalk on the concrete only to watch it wash away with all the arbitrary creatures and sounds, without encountering a moment of great loss. I can’t cut my losses.
Defeat. The temporary serves no purpose to the anxiety ridden people of the present.
We hunt for meaning, high and low. We strive to improve, to multitask, to take the exact number of steps we need; no more, no less.
We can’t possibly appreciate the beauty of living just to live.
Of stopping and appreciating the moment that is this one, right here.
Of watching the chalk slip away, meeting the dust from which it was created.
Just like man – pulled from the ground at full force,
Extracted and molded from an earthly, mundane substance,
Elevated to be novel,
G-d’s partner in creation.
And I grapple with the desire to fulfill my purpose.
This is our origin, colored dust, molded and sustained by the Creator.
Still I shake with fear at the thought of wasting any precious moment – when I could be using it for something real.
It has become so difficult to appreciate the small moments.
Every tiny, earthly moment –
Instead, I find myself constantly rushing from place to place, desperately trying to arrive on time.
And I preach about mindfulness and the slowing of the heart.
And looking for G-d in the trees;
The earth, the wind, and, the chalk.
The little lights in the sky and the big crystal ball that rises and falls.
So I combat this perpetual hunt for efficiency – this desire to always be busy, to be creating and completing.
I recall one episode of sleepwalking from the old days in my mother’s house, where the crickets creaked louder than the floor boards and the dust coated the living room like wallpaper.
I remember the groggy glow of the clock on the oven, the icy kitchen floor below my sweaty, midnight feet.
The halfway place between conscious and anything but.
I remember nothing else, other than waking up in my sister’s room when I had notably gone to sleep in my own.
I woke up in utter confusion, my body half-off the bed, my mind buzzing with questions.
How did I get here? Where have I been? Why do I have no memory of this journey?
And that’s what sleepwalking is – absence of memory. A journey of the body, empty of the active mind.
And this happens every day; in broad daylight. Our bodies just walk and walk and walk.
We ignore what is around us, we ignore what is in us.
And we ache with plans and questions, but without enjoyment.
We forget that what we prayed for last year, is now the reality we are living in. But we don’t stop to notice, we just go on and pray for the next thing we need. Without acknowledging, without even noticing.
And at the end of the journey; this unnerving, anxiety ridden adventure,
We wake up and ask ourselves,
How did we get here?