Yesterday was one of those perfect beautiful days. We were at the fountains on the waterfront, the sun was warm, almost hot, but there was a cool breeze to offset it. I was watching people behind my sunglasses (a good way of keeping oneself from lapsing into mind-numbing boredom while the kids play) and my attention came to rest on one particular woman.

I think this was at first because she was my type -- meaning that she looked like me -- white skin, pink cheeks, small lips, roman nose, long brown hair, graceful hands and feet, and wide fleshy thighs and arms. It's always interesting to me when I see people who share my physical characteristics; to imagine us having come from a genetically homogeneous tribe. Illusory -- after all, she could be as different from me as one could possibly be, but still compelling.

So, I was watching her. When her young son bounded up to her, her face came alive. She put her hands out to him, touching him. They spoke a few words to each other, and then he went back to play. It was such an ordinary thing, but I was transfixed. I noticed how casually she sprawled on the park bench, her sunburned arm lying along the back of it, her legs spread apart, totally relaxed. I glanced quickly around at the other parents, suddenly aware now of the messages their bodies were sending: "I am uncomfortable, people are watching, I think this outfit makes me look fat, I don't really want to be here doing this, I am distracted, I am not really here, I have other concerns. I know I am supposed to have leisure time, but I am an adult, and adults are serious."

And back to the woman. A feeling came over me -- I would call it happiness, but it was more complex than that -- of being outside of human affairs but inside the day. It felt viscerally exactly as it had when I was a child. It came to me very suddenly, this different world. And I fell quiet and still, as if it could evaporate at any moment if I wasn't careful, leaving me back in the plain, dull, tense world I'd just been in.

The bright blue sky, the dappled light of moving leaves in the trees, now so sweet and so clear and fresh and fine. Self-consciousness left me, and I hummed a song to the baby, who laid her warm head against me. People heard me and I thought, strangely, good for them. I had mostly forgotten the woman now, she was still there, still lovely, but as magic emerged around me, her magic melted into it, rather than standing out amongst dullness as before.

The kids splashed in the water, soaking wet, clothes dripping and hanging from them, jubilant, unconcerned. Water splashing, flowing, laughing, moving cold whirling bumping rainbow sun sky cement warm smell mother baby.


Some substances help us to access parts of that place, albeit with a drugged feeling. It's much better -- experientially -- to be there without the drugged feeling, which can be distracting, uncomfortable, isolating, exhausting, and labeled shameful. Another drawback with chemically inducing a natural state is the possibility of becoming dependent on it to reach that state. Yet doing so can help us remember that the state exists at all, so that when we get a chance to enter it naturally we recognize it and allow it to be, undisturbed.

The interesting thing is that the "responsible" among us intentionally try to avoid it. Despite the licentiousness of our culture, there is still a strong puritanical ethic informing it -- the feeling that pleasure is essentially just not good for us, aside from in a few culturally sanctioned and ritualized (controlled) ways, or private, or secret, and often unhealthy. Young children are not generally welcome out in society and so disapproved of when they are; they are not yet very conscious of this ethic, and don't seem capable of abiding by it even when we expect if of them. They make noise, they move too much, they are having too much fun. People purse their lips, brows furrowed, bodies stiffened. Seeing that kind of pleasure in being alive brings up feelings of discomfort, conditioned over time to be an automatic response.

Sad thoughts like that aside, today is promising to be as beautiful a day as yesterday. I can smell the sun warming the soil and the kids are asking if we can go to the fountain.