PTO Day 6: Last night on the coast. Took the Woodford and a tumbler of rocks down to the beach for a last sunset. I went early so I could watch people filing down to the shore. Some get as close to the water as they can, as little as possible between them and the setting sun. If you’re the type to sort of owlishly notice that Friday means an influx of people, suddenly crowded sidewalks, and lines at the little grocery, the last few minutes of the day down there on the beach are a remedy: everyone is there to be in communion. “Nice show tonight,” says an old guy with a big camera. “It was alright,” I reply. Then the sun is just a warm glow under the horizon and people file back out, up on to the sidewalks, tugging their masks back up over their faces.
“If my happiness at this moment consists largely in reviewing happy memories and expectations I am but dimly aware of this present.” — Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity
Sitting in this well-lit room with the sound of the surf coming in from the balcony, it is easy to be here now.
One thing I miss about paratrooping: The moments where I had no choice but to be right where I was in time and space. The five seconds between stepping out the door and feeling the yank of the static line. The few moments I had to do the right thing when something went wrong. The exhilaration of running 75 pounds of gear and silk off the drop zone, wholly inside the animal. No thought about the choices that put me there, no next meal, no beer at the picnic table in the barracks. Just there.
Nostalgia for that is its own kind of dislocation. It’s a longing for the quiet up there in the sky between handing off the static line and stepping out the door and the five seconds before the next useful input about the situation at hand. It’s resistance to how things are here and now: The twisted risers, the feet of another jumper scrambling across your canopy, being put out over the trees. A faster fall because it’s raining and the silk got wet. Landing, but being taken aloft again by a strong gust, helpless just above the ground for a moment before being dropped, hard, seeing stars and tasting blood. Being dragged along rocks and dirt, holding wrist in hand to pull the canopy releases in case you broke something and haven’t felt it yet. Disorientation on a moonlit DZ.
Longing for a remembered state of perfect presence is to not be present with this imperfection.
Nothing to do but make another cup of tea, follow the sun out to the balcony. Turn back to my book. Be here, now.