364: “A Still Point…Ceaseless” (Emily St. John Mandel)

                “I’ve been thinking a great deal about time and motion lately, about being a still point in the ceaseless rush.” -Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of Tranquility

                I’m writing this on a plane. It’s 6:41, or at least, we’d say it was 6:41 on the West Coast where I woke up this morning, and we’d say it was 8:41 in the Midwest where I’ll be landing in half an hour or so. There’s a different kind of tired, a different kind of out-of-place, that I sometimes feel while traveling. I often plan to get things done on a flight. Usually I end up sitting, listening to an audiobook, staring out the window if I’m lucky enough to have a window seat, feeling the engines thrum if I’m sitting somewhere else. Sometimes there’s a little shake, and it’s hard to imagine that’s the wings shaking, that’s the sky shaking, all around us.
                Yesterday, on my last full day visiting my brother and my nieces, we all went kayaking on a beautiful, calm stretch of river. I remember I used to hate paddling over flat water. Well, not hate—I guess I disliked paddling over flat water about the same time when I used “I hate” to mean “I’m not really into.” Say twelve or thirteen, which is also when I didn’t really get going for a walk with no destination. If you just move a little bit and then come back, I thought, then what is it you’re doing? 
                I like walks now. And I really liked the flat water. I liked watching my nieces paddle themselves along, and helping the three year old when she was paddling into the riverbank and the blackberry vines. I also like the current, or the lack of the current, so quiet beneath us it felt like we were balanced between moving. A little like I feel now, of course. Like a ball that isn’t rolling. Like the moment between breathing in and breathing out.
                Now the pilot says we’re starting our descent. Outside the clouds are thickening. The moon hangs. I’ll be back in my apartment soon, unpack my suitcase. I’m excited for that. I rest down into the seat. I want more of my family in my life, and more flat water. The sky and the trees and the reflection of the sky and the trees, and my fingers trailing through the river.

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