He always loved to walk. The body slowly moving, the limbs performing their natural functions, and the breathing. The air softly through the mouth, the throat, filling the chest. The clarity of the senses. How we walk through our lives, a long stream of changing scenery and endless repetition.
As a little boy, to school, on travels, all the memories and experiences connected to and absorbed in the state of walking. Faint travel memories from Greek temples by the Mediterranean Sea, to dark and busy streets in the midst of China, the flowing green landscapes of lush Vietnam, the classical buildings of downtown Washington, gushing geysers on Iceland, tiny streets of childhood summer vacations filled with sunshine and soft scents of flowers in green, violet, yellow. All recorded and remembered while in motion, moving and carefully placing one foot in front of the other. Living life and moving through time.
And the most basic happiness came from the sudden sense and consciousness of breathing. A recognition of the most basic of the life-sustaining functions, slowly in and out. The moments when the breathing slowly became conscious were his passing moments of peace, an uncluttered mind, a refreshing and joyful reminder of being alive. These moments were seldom, but nice. They would come at times while walking, and breathing, and seeing life all around him. The people, bridges, feeling the slight breeze, the sunny walls of a building, faint traffic, flickering reflections in the water. All while carefully filling the lungs and performing the prehistoric and old instinct of supporting life and renewing life, with the basic element of fresh air.
The ducks were gliding by in front of him in their usual manner, slowly, disorderly, absentminded. The peace within him expanded. Today was a day of relief.
From the beginning there had been a gray mist covering the city. The mood was like most other days, at first sleepy, then coming to life with the early risers, after a while with the increased bustle of traffic and workers, and then finding its natural rhythm and beat as the morning slowly grew into day.
For some time he had been so tired of it all. All the bustle, all the noise. The bombardment of distractions from everywhere. Life could be so simple, so nice, so peaceful and so beautiful. Spending some time with great company and having a nice conversation. Relaxing with a cup of coffee or enjoying the small wonders of nature or the marvels of having a good time with nice people. It should have been so easy, but yet.
As he contemplated the contrasts of modern life, a sweet old woman approached the bench where he sat, moving with a determined but soft and careful posture. He always enjoyed the multitudes of topics and depth of conversations with older people, the sometimes myriads of perspectives, the blend of distance and closeness to timeless issues of human nature, the reflections of dynamics and dilemmas in human relationships, at times profound, at times narrow and unconsciously too influenced by personal emotions and experiences, but still helpful and valuable thoughts for others. And mostly with warmth, with gratitude, with a dry and objective acknowledgement of the simple ways of nature.
The chat would span over decades with topics of war, love, time, phases of life and the always renewed joy of an unexpected encounter and connection with a new person. The immediacy of someone next to you sharing a memory or exchanging reflections on life. What matters and what remains relevant and important through the various stages of life. She left after a short while, with a mild glow in her eyes and a sweet little “thank you”. He nodded and smiled.
Moments like these stayed with him for a long time, filling the day with afterthoughts and happiness. And sometimes they could stay with a soft afterglow for years. The ones with a special sense of connection and with something intangible, maybe something that felt nice and soothing at a deeper level, maybe that came at the right time and the right place in his life, or maybe that just opened up a new perspective on life and the world, and added another persons thinking and reflections to his own, making everything more interesting and complex.
The bench was now calm and quiet again, and the trees were standing peacefully around the pond.
He sat for just a little while longer.