The 5th of July
Today, like every Friday, was a day off. Usually I wander down to Main St. in the morning, down the steep stairs (that you see off to your right) and past the twin churches that flank the public park, to my little coffee shop. Today, being the day after a holiday, the coffee shop was closed. However, the Starbucks was open, so I wandered down there, book in hand. I often spend a Friday morning sitting in the sun, reading, and watching people go by. The book I'm reading (First Man In Rome) is very gripping and interesting, so I was looking forward to today.
After sitting for a long time in Starbucks, and reading - one of the girls who works there came around offering samples of their "new, Blended Creme Vanilla Frappacino", which is not caffeinated, and has no coffee or espresso of any sort in it. It was smooth and cold and tasty and sweet. About half an hour later, I realized that it was in every way exactly idential to a vanilla milk-shake, except for it's name. Score one for the marketing geniuses.
I sat for too long, I think - but Starbucks was air-conditioned and my house is not, so it was a pleasant way to spend the day. I tried to make plans for the evening, but have thus far failed...and after a while I wandered home. But the sun was bright, and the sky was so blue! And there was a perfect breeze, and a shady park, with a dog run full of happy cavorting dogs. So I sat myself down in the shade of a massive oak, on a bunch. And there I was, in the midst of my city, in a little slice of pastural perfection. If there was distantly to be heard the sound of traffic, it was covered over by the hiss of the breeze in the leaves of the oak trees. If the air was not perfectly sweet, it was at least dominated by the scent of the loam, and freshly turned soil, and verdant grass everywhere growing.
And what is it about dogs that is so absolutely amusing? I can't watch a dog do anything at all without smiling. I found myself wishing very much I was home enough to have a dog. And I also realized that I spend the vast majority of my time alone, and that maybe having a dog isn't so preposterous after all. I considered the that last night I was talking to, innocently enough even though her boyfriend was jealous. He had slunk off to sit by himself, and was every now and again shooting sour glances at her. She said, "I should go and see what he wants."
I replied. "I'll let you in on a little secret - when guys wander off to sit by themselves at a party, it's not because they want some time alone, but that they want to see who will cover over and talk to them." She indicated that she knew, and that's why she was going to go talk to him. I asked if he was introverted, as that seemed like a classically introverted thing to do.
She affirmed that he was not, but on later reflection, it occurred to me that (unbeknownst to her) I wasn't asking if he was introverted - but rather, if I am introverted. For as long as I can remember, at some point in nearly every party I've sat down by myself, irritated that no one was coming to talk to me, and yet not willing to get up and make the effort to reach out myself. And that trend, I realize as I write this - ripples out to the rest of my life. Here I sit on yet another Friday night, by myself (except for the cat!) as I have on so many others... irritated that I'm alone, but not willing to go to the effort to find something to do. Well so there, I've just had some insight into my own character. ... and I realize that perhaps I'm more introverted than I think of myself as being.
So I sat in the park for a long time. Reading, listening to the wind in the leaves, watching the dogs. Just being - with nothing in particular to do, nowhere in particular to be. After a long while, really a couple of hours, I finally came home. Scattered on the ground, discarded, were the spent casings of fireworks, covered with ridiculous names like, "Furious Flower" or "Beautiful World" and others that sound like the dinner special at a Chinese restaraunt. I remembered other days in other parks, especially in my youth - long afternoons in Valley Forge, lazy summer days in the woods behind my grandparent's house. Over time all those memories lay over top one another, layer after layer - which obscures gradually the center. Which is what? What is that center - is that me? Is that my inner self? Or can it be that there is no center at all, but that who we are is simply a function of those layers built up over time, like glacial deposits over continents that become the landscape itself, even as it alters it?
Under all those memories and experiences - who am I? And am I really there at all?