Monday, January 5, 2009

Night Walks

There are times when you have to walk out under a night-time sky and talk to your life.

You have to hear what you sound like when you don’t care how much it’s going to hurt to say the things you have to say.

You can’t have anyone around as you walk doggedly forward and around and back and forward again.

Last night I put on my down parka around eight o’clock. I had no clearer goal than to be outside and to follow the pavement for as long as I needed. I had on my leather gloves and a cap as I closed the front door behind me and slipped the familiar keys into a coat pocket.

Compared to recent nights, the air around me was bearably, I might say refreshingly cold. I was not going to be driven inside by relentless currents of frigid air or by sudden gusts. And it was also a safe neighborhood through which I would be wending my way; the only fear I might possibly face would arise from my own thoughts and the future toward which they had been leading me this past year.

I have a friend in New York who almost only calls me when she is out walking, unclear when she starts out how long she will last on the sidewalks, city block after city block. She arranges her route to bring her near a bus line in case fatigue suddenly surprises her. She can opt then for the harbor of a well-lit, over-heated bus, but it is seldom her first choice.

My friend seems to think remarkably clearly as she marches forward, the cell phone up to her ear. I occasionally hear the burst of a vendor’s harangue as she passes storefronts on her way. There are other times when the bus she is not yet taking drowns the sound of her voice as it passes her. She laughs well on New York streets, and we sometimes enjoy launching observations that verge dangerously close on peremptory dismissal of anyone with whom we happen that moment to disagree; briefly we are heedless of the outrage our spoken judgments might cause within the hearing of anyone on whose good opinion we ordinarily count.

Another friend who calls me sometimes late at night is all heartbreaking earnestness. Never raising his voice as he speaks into his phone, he is walking home from work along the sidewalks of his city neighborhood. Between work and home he has a chance to hear himself speak without the customary confidence or bonhomie to which those among whom he generally moves are accustomed. When we talk, he is asking questions about God, about a self he once knew more intimately, about a future he hopes he has the courage for.

Home is a beautiful goal for human beings, but when you are somehow between homes you have to admit it and take responsibility for it.

There are times when you have to walk out under a night-time sky and talk to your life.

3 comments:

Ur-spo said...

I talk to the stars frequently; here in Arizona they are bright and clear. They are good listeners.

MperiodPress said...

You write...Home is a beautiful goal for human beings, but when you are somehow between homes you have to admit it and take responsibility for it.

This makes me think about a conversation I had once about stability vs. constancy or consistency. Which would I rather? The constancy of love, of friendship, of trust, of esteem, of wonder in the midst of potential change, flow, adventure of one kind and another... or the stability of knowing exactly what's there, where, when, how.

Perhaps the constancy of home or the stability of a house?

Hm. Worthy of a walk and a think. Thanks, friend.

Donald said...

The stability of a house can support and express and sometimes shape what the constancy of home will look like or feel like. I think that's what makes some of us want to be "homeowners" -- although how truly people can talk about the feeling of "coming home" who have no solid real estate deed in their pockets!

Sometimes the stars do seem like the roof of the only home any of us should ultimately depend on.