Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ring of Fire

When I was in first or second grade, there was a solar eclipse. We all ran out to the playground with our homemade pin-hole viewers, full of excitement. The whole thing was brief (if I remember correctly), but thrilling.

Well, this past weekend, those of us in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were blessed with yet another solar eclipse. The shadow of the eclipse passed directly over a relatively small patch of earth, much of it in the Pacific. But Albuquerque residents were fortunate enough to be dead-center on the path of the eclipse, where the moon was to pass directly in front of the sun.

And pass in front of it, it did. However, it was unlike the eclipse of my childhood. The whole process roughly two hours long, with four minutes of full eclipse time, but it was an annular eclipse. It was also what's called an "annular" eclipse, where the moon isn't close enough to block out the whole of the sun. So, the fortunate viewer sees a “ring of fire” in the sky.

A clear evening, not a cloud in sight, it was perfect for view such a phenomenon (with the right glasses, welding masks, or contraptions, of course). And as the sunlight was gradually dimmed, the change was palpable, an orange dust coating our city. It was a lovely, magical way to spend a Sunday evening.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mobile Bliss

We spend very little of our time living in the present moment. Between endless to-do lists and planning, not to the mention frequent “did I turn off the stove?” and “oh no, I feel like I'm forgetting something,” our minds race from one thing to another, rarely slowing down enough to do just one thing at a time.

But I feel blessed. I have found solace from this constant mental racing in the strangest of places. I have recently discovered a sort of meditation-in-motion every time I drive my scooter around town. Unlike driving a car – battling traffic, shoulders tensed, constantly frustrated, fingers poised for honking – cruising about on my little 50 cc scooter I find myself completely relaxed. (It’s hard to believe I was ever terrified by the prospect of driving a scooter.)

I expected to feel anxious on a scooter; I am, after all, much smaller and slower than the other vehicles on the road. But it is this size and speed difference what has altered my attitude about driving. I am forced into being completely aware of my surroundings – other cars, potholes, trash – in a way that matters less when driving a car. I am able to feel the nuances of the pavement and must move subtly within the confines of my lane in order to avoid excessive jostling and bouncing about. It is this awareness that keeps me tuned in to the present moment, rather than worrying about reaching my destination or what I must do once there.

Scooter driving has also cultivated an attitude of calm in regard to trying to keep pace with those around me. Being able to only reach speeds of 30-35 mph, I must practice more fully acceptance of my limitations. Pass me if you must. I am not in control of other people’s need to rush (though I do try to only take roads with these lower speed limits, out of compassion for those in a hurry). And this is something that I try to carry around with me in the rest of my day – I can only do what I am capable of today.

I’m sure that many of the people behind the wheel of a car find me frustrating (especially with the number of scooters in Albuquerque ever-increasing), but I try to just let that thought wash over me and disappear, choosing to focus instead on just being attentive.

And so, I coast around town with none of the tension I experience when driving a car. Sun on my face, wind whipping my hair around, catching whiffs of flowering plants, noticing just how many butterflies flit around town unnoticed. Calm and present, doing something we should all try to do more often: doing just one thing.