This morning while walking the dog before dawn, I had one of those moments where the mind suddenly snaps to attention in a way that makes you realize you’re still alive.
So much of life is getting through the moments of our existence. Processing things the best way we know how. Using experience to weigh the significance, or lack thereof, in every waking moment.
But the mind works in fits and starts. I stood there for a moment looking at the veil of trees silhouetted against the sky lit by distant towns. It gave me a snap of awareness. Made me think of how many times I’ve been doing something like running or riding or even swimming in a pool only to ask, as if I just woke up, “What am I doing here?”
What are any of us doing here? Or anywhere? A few minutes later during our walk, our dog stopped and stared into the darkness. I bent down to look into the murk from her perspective, but could see nothing. She let loose a low growl. Could it be a coyote?
She’s a cautious pup, rescued from who knows what sort of existence under a year ago. Now she views the world through eyes that have likely seen things we don’t want to imagine.
Awareness is a strange thing. I recall a long bike ride several years ago in which I covered fifty miles on country roads. The route was familiar and the conditions tolerable, so it didn’t take much thought to cover ground. On a shallow descent toward home my mind caught up with the effort. It frightened me that I could not recall anything about the miles I’d just covered. Could not remember if I’d paused at stop signs or crossed through many intersections. It wasn’t even a blur. It was…nothing.
I vowed not to let that happen again. Yet it does now and then. And worse. One morning while riding a bike trail at a brisk pace I looked up to find a fallen tree across the path. All I could do is react in some way. Turning the front wheel at the last possible second, my body slammed into the tree and my face grazed a thick limb sticking up from the trunk. Seconds later I lay on the ground bruised and bleeding from the face. Nothing makes you feel alive like seeing blood pouring from your own face and dripping on your clothes.
This past spring a similar thing happened when a man stepped out from between two cars and before I could react, I hit him square in the ass. There was no time to react and no way to have seen him before he popped out from between those two vehicles.
Even without such shocks to make us wonder when life might end, or what it means, there are moments when reality shifts and the world stands still before you. Or a tarsnake catches your wheel. Like that.
A friend of mine from high school keeps reminding me, “We have more life behind us than ahead of us these days.” He’s always been a sage of sorts, in colloquial fashion. His point is that awareness is a precious commodity. So is a sense of wonder. And conscious existence. So make the most of it. Love your friends. Keep in touch. Live.
Sometimes it takes a dog growling in the dark to help us realize there are things we need to consider in this world whether we like to or not. All we can really do is growl back in whatever fashion we choose, and keep moving.