No one is to be seen except the occasional passerby or visitor to the seals. It is quietly surreal in a place which at this time last year bustled with tourists, no seat to be found. The cackles of children to interrupt reveries. I am reminded of the days I lived in the mountains of North Carolina where the only sounds to be heard were the bustling creek or the splashing of waterfalls. Birds in the distance, the crinkle of the leaves as I walked along the trails. A place where at night the cry of a bobcat could be heard. Camping was a time of scurrying animals, possibly bears exploring food options at our campsite as we slept. The calmness of a swimming hole as I sat on a rock, my notebook ready to document the sensations of mother earth all around.
It is these phenomena that now fill me as I sit in the middle of a city, Boston, where it is near impossible to feel alone unless surrounded by a crowd of people. Today, in the day of Covid-19 the impressions of a serene hike in the woods has reached the pavement of life. My senses become more aware of the rippling water in the wind. The sounds of the masts gently hitting the poles on the boats buoyed in the harbor. The flags breaking in the wind on a cloudy day. The air smells of fresh stirred ocean. Fish and sea water permeate my nose. I love these smells, the sounds, the sensations which are in normal times smothered by the sound of so many people.
Embraced by nature once lost to the intruders of harsh corners and capitalism, I rest my eyes on the waters ahead. Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey lays open on my lap, my head back as the wind plays with my hair. I breathe deep as I hear the occasional bark of a seal coming from the aquarium, a reminder that nature remains under captivity; nearly breaking the reverie of nature in a concrete society. The wooden chair I sit is damp from recent rain, but I do not care. It is no different than sitting on a boulder jutting into the middle of a mountain river.
My eyelids lower. I am brought back to a time I sat on a boulder in my favorite hiking spot where even man’s industrial touch reached. Evidence of it in the cast iron tracks built to aid the lumberjacks in their desire to rip the trees from their mother: Earth. It is also the magical wood of imagination and childhood. No place is untouched by the destructive growth of man, even seen in those mountains that have long since been abandoned by those once there to profit from their beauty. Their mark left by means of escape with the precious jewels of the forest.
I open my eyes, focusing on the ribbon effect of an ocean stirred as the song of caretakers sing happy birthday to one of the seals. My heart soars at the oddity of the scene that must be happening within those plex-glass walls which allows onlookers like me to peek into their day to day life as I walk by. The irony is not lost nor is the admiration of these beautiful creatures who have the look of joy permanently sealed to their faces. I had stopped by their home, my eyes receiving the blessing of merriment before I sat among the empty wooden, oversized chairs along the walk overlooking the harbor with views of a quiet airport on the opposite shore. Yet, another reminder that life is not as it once was this time last year.
I am working again after three months. This gets me out of my own home for a few hours a couple days a week. Business is not enough that allows more than one of us to work at a time except on Mondays so it can be a little lonely, but it is not bad. I have had enough calls from customers to give me people discourse. Even one of my favorite customers has returned to buy flowers. It is nice to have another outlet of creativity of which can be shared with more than myself. This is a lonely time, yet in many ways necessary so as to slow the rushing mind which forgot how to take the time to decelerate itself and take a breath. The best part of my workday these days is the time I spend on this small bench behind the aquarium with Jane Austen, the seals, harbor, sounds and smells.
This is a time of contemplation, of breathing to the fullest, of expansion in an ever-tightening world. Mother nature has a way of stopping us in our tracks so we will take notice. We have, as a collective humanity, seemed to have left her behind, stripping her of all she can give us. We have forgotten to appreciate her for the stillness in life she bestows. Her beauty. Her desire to live with us. Her need to depend upon us. Her love for all things living. Her desperation for the innocent who walk upon her paths. She has enough love to give. We are demanding spoiled children taking more than she has to give. Yet, we want to enjoy her wares all the same. She has taken desperate measures. She has said. “Stop. You’re not only killing me, but yourselves!” Her breath blows gently through my hair as my love for her has been given room to love her on this quiet afternoon as I await to walk to my train.
I stand, reluctant to end the tranquility I feel. I would like time to visit the seals in the other tank. They are adorable and entertaining with their showoff demeanor. Swimming fast on their backs, upside down their smiles are goofy and animated on loveable faces I wish I could hug. They are oblivious to the horrors of life as it is with the internal virus of Covid-19 and the external virus of racism, boiling over to finally be seen at the forefront. These seals, as I stand there, give me a quiet refuge from the chaotic turmoil resulting from a people finally standing up to a demented government allowed to have been stolen from the people, manipulated and twisted to harm those who they are supposed to represent. The electoral college, a twisted remnant from a time of slavery which has no place in a globalized democracy.
I bow and smile to the happy seals, whose pleasures are simple and thank them for their beauty and lessons in life.