Living in the Present
By Johi Kokjohn-Wagner
One look at the temperature gauge tells me that today is 21 degrees warmer than yesterday. It’s in the double digits, which makes it warm enough to walk. I grab my most practical winter gear and bundle myself up for 12 degrees. I know that I will get too hot after the first two miles, but the sweat will be good for me. I've eaten a lot of cookies in the past month, I’m probably in need of a solid detox.
Red Dog meets me at the door. It is early, the sun in just started to paint the sky with color, and we are alone in our outing. I put the leash over my shoulders and we walk together, untethered, down the snow packed lane.
There is no wind this morning, only a still coldness that embraces my face. I immediately find a rhythm in my breathing and footsteps. Red Dog enjoys her unleashed freedom as she circles, sniffs, and scampers through the silent morning. I watch a rabbit silently hop through a field.
We pass the neighbors’ houses and approach the pasture. The sky is spectacular in its hues. Vibrant yellow, to orange to rosy pink them purple light up the sky like a Ferris wheel. The blue grey clouds, brushed with gold sweep up and out from the band of colors on the horizon. The trees stand black in contrast to the colorful palette of the new day’s sun. This is truly one of the most brilliant sunrises I have ever witnessed. I stop to drink in the light show with my eyes. I need the stillness, the quiet, to properly absorb the beauty. God is the most talented painter I know.
My little dog looks at me with a question in her eyes. She doesn't appreciate the stopping, so I move my body forward. She and I both find relief in the motion. Again I create a cadence with my breath, a consistency with my footsteps.
We pass through the gate into the natural area where the lone Cottonwood greets us. I look high into the branches, searching for an eagle that occasionally watches me from the sky. The tree stands alone today. Empty and quiet is my tree, welcoming me to empty and quiet my mind.
The snow is a sparkling blanket of perfection. Save the occasional soft footprints of a mouse... or maybe a bird, it is unfettered. My dog and I make our own tracks. Hers are quick and light, mine are deliberate and heavy. Yet we are perfectly aligned in this moment.
A hawk flies overhead and cries out an acknowledgement. I raise my eyes to him, and again gasp at the brilliant colors of the sunrise on the horizon. The east explodes with intense hues like a neon sign on the Vegas strip. Behind me, the mountains to the west catch the light and warm my eyes, melting the ice around my heart, with a cast off pink and golden glow. The sky above them in painted in pastel shades of blue and the tips of the clouds are brushed with soft light that seems to radiate from within. The tree branches are tipped in red. Everything is stunning.
The dog and I head north to the river. Another hawk watches me from the highest branches of a tree. She flies away as soon as I reach her. I wonder how long she saw me before I spotted her. We follow the bend in the path near the river and the mountains burst into my view. Their vastness astonishes me. Today, they span a wider distance. Today, the space in front of them is greater. Today, they seem to hold all the answers.
In art school, on the first day of class from freshman year, we were all given a piece of cardboard and some string. With an Exacto knife, we cut a square in the center of the cardboard. Then we created an intersection in the shape of a “t” with the string, which we taped on the back. We were taught to look through that viewfinder at our subject matter. This technique taught us about balance within a frame, it reminded us about symmetry and asymmetry. I've spent the last 20 years of my life framing images up into perfectly balanced pictures. With my fingers and thumbs in the shape of a square, I view the world around, fitting everything into a 2 inch square. If you cut enough from the picture, anything can be art.
But this morning what strikes me about the expansive mountains is the lack of boundaries; the lack of a frame. I can only experience this grandeur with my eyes at this moment. I have to be here, right now, because no photo or painting can translate the look and feeling of the mountains stretching on… seemingly forever.
There is dignity in the mountains. There is integrity in the untouched land. There is strength and solitude in nature that is unmatched by anything. My dad taught me that. There are happy little trees. Bob Ross taught me that.
As I continue my four mile loop, I listen to the sound of the snow crunch beneath my heavy boots as I watch the changing sky. Soon the sun rises higher and the abandoned farmstead is lit up like a stage production of Oklahoma. I quietly sing a tune in honor of the light show. I cut it short because my voice sorta sucks.
I turn another corner that leads me eastward again and I am met by the golden orb responsible for all this beauty. In this very moment, it is cresting the horizon. Another hawk sits silently in a tree above me and watches. I put him in a frame. I say hello, “What up, hawk?” He flies away. I hear the cars on the highway in the distance.
I pass my favorite tree again as I leave the natural area. I look high into the branches, hoping to see an eagle. Instead, I am greeted by a group of tiny birds, each of them happily tweeting out their own little song. Their music is oddly chaotic and beautiful.
My morning walk brings me what I need. I feel an unusual fondness for winter. I am filled with peace. My lungs are filled with fresh, crisp air. My body is warm and ready for the day. My mind is calm and so is Red Dog; an unusual state for both. I enter my house. I want to write. I am ready to create! I have so much to say! But the chaos of my day has already started... so I tend to the children, the laundry and the meals.
Once again, I am living in the present moment.
This is a writing prompt about writing in the present tense from Writing from the Heart.