A Journey Through the Present

“Catch it if you can. The present is an invisible electron; its lightning path traced faintly on a blackened screen is fleet, and fleeing, and gone.” –Annie Dillard

This quote is a snippet from page 80 of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I have been thinking a lot about the present and what it means to be present since reading chapter six in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek before the holiday break. It is a good ambition to want to feel more present in life more often, but what does it even mean to be present? According to Annie Dillard, “Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall” (p 82). To me, being present is not about forgetting the past or ignoring the future. Rather, I think part of being present is to be actively aware of where you stand in relationship with the past and future. At the same time, being present requires a certain amount of stillness. It is finding the appropriate balance between active and calm, alert and peaceful. I find that my fondest memories are of when I am being an active observer and participant in my life. This is not because those times were any better than normal, but because I made a conscious effort to be aware of myself and my surroundings and reflect on them. So here I am, sitting on a log off the Gambles Mill Trail, actively in the present. I feel the branches of my brambly hut brush against my back and cheek. I am watching the sun filter through the low canopy, highlighting patches of crumbled leaves left over from fall. I am listening to the birds banter a few yards away. Thinking about our conversation in class, I wonder if the trees and birds around me are native to the area. As I watch the stream filtering past, I wonder what journey the water has taken to reach this spot, and where it will eventually arrive. I am thoroughly enjoying this small journey through the present. I hope that with more active participation in my life, I can continue to enjoy and learn about places like the Gambles Mill Trail and the rest of the world around me.

Beautiful World

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One Response to A Journey Through the Present

  1. as8qj says:

    Our second visit to the Gambles Mill Trail came at just the right time in the middle of a very stressful week for me. For some reason, last week’s workload and daily pressures overwhelmed me in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time. Our visit to the trail took me out of my hectic schedule for just enough time to allow me to take a step back and simply enjoy breathing the fresh air. To follow up on a few questions I posed in my first post- on this second adventure, I learned that a species can be both native and invasive (most of the gnarled brush). I also learned that the source of the stream is Westhampton Lake, and before that Old Westham Creek. The water eventually flows to the James and onward to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

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