Monday, February 13, 2006

A lesson in zen

Typically, one of my first thoughts upon waking would be, “Hey! Maybe today is the day my book will sell!” I would not venture out without my cell phone, and after periods of turning it off (for work, for shows, etc.) I would make a point of turning it back on to see if a particular literary agent had called me…

But one day recently, without any forethought, I abandoned that. I put on my running clothes and headed out without even realizing my phone wasn’t on me, and ran a little creekside trail near my house.

And I didn’t even think about my novel when I was running, just about other things that were going on. Paying attention to the water in the creek, the smell of wood, and – well, I have to be frank—the loud music in my earphones.

After my run, I slowed to a walk, and went to my neighborhood grocery store, pulling a shopping list out of the back of my mp3 player case. I was buying food for that night’s dinner and delighting in the centuries-old tradition of only buying as much food as you can carry. Forget car trunks and shopping carts: I was simple, focused on the ingredients for one meal.

I wandered the aisles enjoying the slowing down of my breath, the heat in my cheeks subsiding. I lingered. The day stretched ahead of me. I was not teaching that day, and I had no other task than to prepare dinner. I savored my slowness.

And because of that, fate put me in an express lane that went monumentally slowly. I saw people in other check-out lanes with provisions to get Hannibal and the elephants over the Alps moving out the door with their receipts, while I stood.

It was the kind of day where our cashier became locked out of her cash register, and several visits back and forth with the store manager never yielded results. But I didn’t care for once. I stood patiently, reflecting that the young cashier was so self-possessed. Had I been her age, with the people stacked up in line, I would have been frantic – but she was taking it in stride.

Finally, we all moved to a different lane, and finally I was released from the supermarket, with two bags suspended from my hands. I noted with pleasure that they were equally weighted.

And I walked home, up the hill, steady steps, quiet mind, just taking absolute and total contentment in my leisure.

And when I walked in my front door, my partner Alan bolted up from the sofa and said, with some urgency, “Someone’s been trying to reach you all afternoon!”

I looked at the face of my cell phone, which displayed the name of the person who had tried to call me every 20 minutes.

That someone was Marly Rusoff, my literary agent.

No comments: