We traveled toVancouverrecently. I had to do a swing through the lower mainland promoting my new books and we were forced to stay in the downtown. I say forced because now that we live in the mountains outside ofKamloopsgoing to the city has become a chore.
Our lives have slowed down for one thing. There’s no rush to be anywhere or do anything in our little house in the hills. As a writer I work out of home, so my days have become linked to the sense of ease that comes in a rural setting. There is never a sense of rush to anything.
Because of that we’ve grown used to silence. Except for the music we play and the occasional movie or TV show, there’s no noise. We hear birds, coyotes, dogs barking, the wind in the tress and quiet, deep, meaningful quiet. In the city, silence is rare. Trying to sleep with sirens and traffic noise was almost impossible.
And we hardly ever see anyone. We both work alone and we can go for days without seeing another person. In the city, we went for a walk among hundreds and hundreds of other people. It was a struggle to get anywhere. You got the feeling that if you lifted your feet the crowd would just carry you along.
I watched people. As a writer people are my greatest resource and I’ve been an avid people watcher for years. But what I was seeing in the city disturbed me. Everywhere, it seemed, people were detached.
On the sidewalks almost everyone had an IPod or music device plugged in. Or else they were talking on cell phones. As they walked none of them noticed where they were or who was passing by. They were insulated against everything.
A Cree elder once told me that the purpose of walking was to walk. He meant that the experience was the thing. He meant being mindful. He meant being present in my life at every moment. All those people were taken out of their experience and missing those moments.
It saddened me. We have so little time here. Our lives go by in a blink and the measure of the journey lies in our recollections. The memories. The moments. The life defining people, places, and things we encounter. It’s hard to see those with your head down. When you don’t look at people you miss the pure magic of contrast.
So unplug. Be still. Be present. I, for one, do not want to miss anything.