An oft’ discussed issue in the MIDDLE OF LIFE is exercise. The block of time it takes to exercise can be as elusive as the memories from that one crazy night in college. Then when we do find the time, it can feel like glue has been put on the bottom of our shoes.
We know it works a certain chemical magic. It’s proven. Four out of five dentists recommend it. We know this and still don’t do it as often as we should (well I don’t).
In the spirit of exercise I take myself out for walks or runs around my lovely town. On this particular day I was really focusing on, well, trying to not focus on anything. But my surroundings captured me.
Who could resist this lone cloud cluster as it cast a shadow on the post-fire, newly- greened foothills. It was the epitome of happiness and freedom. It reminded me of a painting that I love; that delicate, yet spritely cloud shadowed on the earth. As nature is wont to do, it inspired a myriad of other thoughts.
I watched until the cloud evaporated and I turned back toward the ocean.
Ah, the ocean. Those sailors weren’t kidding about the sirens. Odysseus didn’t stand a bloody chance. They are uber seductive.
I wandered to the edge and listened to bass of the waves crashing below and the treble of the birdsong above. I stood trying to still my brain, and struggling not to feel guilty about my passive heart rate.
When chattering grey matter finally does quiet, it’s surprising what can make itself heard. For me it was a Shakespearean sonnet. It suddenly became important that I remember what I had memorized in Mr. Libbert’s 10th grade English class.
Apparently, my quiet mind thought it was appropriate that I reconnect with an old friend that is Sonnet number XVIII.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds in May and Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines and often is his gold complexion dimmed. And every fair from fair sometime declines by chance… Or nature’s changing course untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st. Nor shall death brag thou wandr’st in his shade when in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe and eyes can see, so long lives this and this gives life to thee. *
As I recited Shakespeare in this field, a ruby throated hummingbird hovered in front of me and then disappeared with an inhalation of my breath and a blink. Such sudden beauty.
Beauty is fleeting. But then that is whole other sonnet, yet to be memorized.
So while I didn’t even work up a sweat, I EXERCISED my right to be still and got a beautiful gift in return.
Thank you Bill Shakespeare for your words that simmer to the surface when I have none of my own. And thanks B.D.E. for your constant inspiration and kindness.
Facing the continual fork in the road of the Middle of Life,
* I took liberty with the phrasing of this sonnet to emphasize the contemporary relevance of the words. Try speaking a Shakespearean sonnet as if you really mean it today; the phrasing is different, but the words are perfect.
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