When I was a young woman in Denver aspiring to be an artist I spent a lot of time at Muddy Waters of the Platte, a coffeehouse, bookstore, a stage and small auditorium for performing and life drawing models. In the ladies room was written, in red nail polish,
Pee Here Now
There was also a little litany of philosopher misquotes that I also enjoyed.
To do is to be, Descartes.
To be is to do, Sartre.
Do be do be do, Sinatra
It was a great bathroom with walls that were constantly edited, but it has gone the way of the Dodo, just one of the numerous ways Denver has betrayed me, that whore. Muddy’s corresponded with my “time” — it opened in 1975 and closed in 1985. I first visited it in 1976 and left Denver in 1984. ❤
The ability to “pee here now” is a big deal, actually, and not easy. I can honestly say that, since those days — which I remember with a distinctly rosy glow — to some extent, I’ve mastered it. I must thank my 25+ furry gurus and my father who the whole time I knew him was dying of Multiple Sclerosis slowly, visibly and with constant narration. He wanted me to learn THE LESSON at an early age. I did, too. I think it’s partly why I never had a lot of ambition and never conformed enough to get some of the things that would have registered as “success.”
Success in a conventional sense requires compromising with the TRUTH which is, “Holy shit! I’m going to DIE! I’d better carpe the diem!”
One of the first pieces of literature my dad shared with me (and I was not yet in second grade) was this which I heard sitting on my dad’s knee. My dad read it with passion and feeling.
Jaques to Duke Senior
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
(Shakespeare, As You Like It)
It made no sense at all any more than this did, which I also heard on my father’s knee:
The Moving Finger writes and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears blot out a word of it.
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
It’s just not all that easy NOT to think about the next thing and pee here now.
For me it has been an evolution, in spite of my intellectual understanding.
Back then in the busy, driven times of holding up the sky, fifteen minutes into a hike, teaching problems vanished, unrequited love? Well that took a little longer to retreat into the distance, but it went. When there was nothing left but the feeling of wind on my skin, the fragrance of black and white sage, dust, the screech of hawks, the magic sighting of an owl. I had learned to “Pee here now” at least for those wondrous moments.
I really understood the lesson when the economy went south in 2008. I worked and drove most of the the time I was not asleep. I REALLY had almost no time to myself and most of what I had was in the car driving 30 – 45 miles from school to home, from home to school. When I started wanting more time of my own, and was teaching at 7 am, I started getting up at 4 just to have two hours to live in that moment. I wrote, sometimes a blog, sometimes I just chilled with my dogs and savored my coffee. I could leave home early and witness the beauty of wild turkeys on the edges of the woods, listen to music in my car and not worry that maybe I’d be slowed down on the freeway.
I was evolving into a retired person.
Having been one for five years, I now understand what that means to me. It means I do not have to think about the next thing. I lived under the stress of tight schedules, the next place, the expectations of others for so long. Until I stopped, I didn’t know how much it cost me or how dishonest (though necessary $$$$) it was.
I have a very precious friend who is constantly busy and consumed with — or at least thinking about — about the next thing she has to do. I have studied her for a while now, and I think that’s her way of accounting to herself for her days, her life. I have never known her to be completely in the moment except a couple of times we were on a trail together.
This isn’t a judgment; we’re all different. But unlike my friend, I feel claustrophobia when I have too much scheduled, too many obligations, too much expected of me. I want the leisure to savor a conversation with a kid or a neighbor or my dogs. I also want time alone to enjoy my own thoughts.
I’ve learned a lot from Bear and her approach to life, that and the last few years of slow walking with a fucked up hip joint. That all really changed the world for me and helped me narrow things down to what I really care about (Langlauf, dogs, the mountains, my books, friends). Then, since a week ago when I had the near death moment on the highway, the question of this moment and its meaning has intensified, reminding me that there isn’t anything else in life but this moment. My feet and eyes carry me through time, and it’s not my job to arrive anywhere because there is no where to go. There are only things to see, feel, experience. Savor. Only now.
Featured Photo: “Ten Long-Gone Denver Institutions” Westword