Meeting an Old Friend After a Year

Some places are like old friends. Time may pass between you, but when you return to them you find them there.

It’s not that they’re waiting for you. But they are welcoming without trying to, by simply being what they are.

A good old friend of mine is Herastrau Park, and recently I saw it again after more than a year.

It wasn’t forgetfulness that kept me away from it–only the pandemic.

Even though the situation wasn’t so bad here, I took a long retreat from most places to focus on my writing and just be–simply and without complications.

What is time between old friends?

I found the park unchanged save for a few old trees that had tired of gravity in one way or other.

Fallen old tree in park

How many times did I pass under their branches without paying any mind to them?

Now that they were not quite as vertical as usual I finally noticed them.

Tree trunk cut on park alley

Maybe that’s how parks count time–not in years like us, but in the trees they lose.

It was as if the place had gone through its own issues too during this time and overcame them to smile green and leafy.

There were some surprises too. Like these fellows.

turtles on a log in the water

Walking there, I felt the park remembered me too, in its green, leafy, chirpy way.

It was enough to look at the old alleys, at the reflections in the lake, at the tops of trees spreading over the sky to know it did.

Some places are like that, we don’t go to them but simply are one with them.

A Broken Tree: Three Photos

Returning to the park after a long time, I found my attention arrested by a tree…

So much beauty and so much pain in its position in a mass of cracked, dried wood.

In years passed, I must have walked by it many times, before the sky-storm or the man-storm or it’s parasitic illness. When it was whole, I seldom noticed it.

Isn’t pain a way to see things more clearly?

7 Underrated Benefits of Reading a Bit Every Day

Woman reading in red bed against yellow background painting by Christopher Clark

You know already the benefits of reading on your mind and body, how it makes us smarter and more empathetic, how it can increase creativity and all that. But there are a few other benefits to reading that are easy to overlook. Here’s why I think it’s good to pick up a book every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Makes us pause

We live in a culture that values activity, and the mind itself craves to do things all the time. But sometimes we do more not doing anything, just taking a break from all that activity.

We keep wanting to do things, and sometimes we get into trouble because of it. We hang out with the wrong people, we overbuy and overspend, we jump from one thing to the next, we take holidays that leave us more tired than we were before we packed our bags.

Taking a break from all that is good at least once in a while, and reading helps.

Readying is still a way to keep the mind busy, but at least it keeps our body in one place. It also tends to keep our mind focused on a topic or on someone else’s problems (fiction) rather than our own.

Reduces the risk of accidents

Road accidents, traveling accidents, sports accidents, animal accidents, accidents of most kinds, you name them. Staying home with a book is a pretty safe as far as recreational activities go, provided of course we don’t oversit, which is bad in itself.

Cuts back expenses

Having fun with a book tends to be cheaper than most other forms of entertainment. It may not be immediately stimulating, but with practice it’s fun in a quiet, soothing way.

Slows down time

All around us, technology speeds up time. The pace of life is faster than ever.

One moment we’re 20, the next we’re 25. We get a lot of things done, but do we stop often enough to contemplate them, to observe our habits, to savor our memories?

A good book can make the hours fly, it’s true. But the experience of reading itself slows our body and encourages a deeper appreciation of things. I find this to be particularly true of classics and other books set in the past.

Gives us a break from love woes and interpersonal relations

Other people are wonderful. But other people can also be a pain. A book is a way to be with other people without being with them, especially if the author happens to be dead. Books are social but without the disagreements and the disappointments.

I don’t find that books distances me from other people. The more I read, the more I like people because I become more aware of other perspectives than my own.

Pauses interruptions

In life everyone gets interrupted. In print, the text goes on and on, ideas, images, scenes keep flowing, even those we don’t agree with or that we question. When we read, we can observe and not take sides. We don’t have to interrupt and we don’t get interrupted either.

Slows down our breathing

Our breathing is one of the most wonderful things we have, and yet it’s easy to forget about it. When we read, we slow down our breathing, and becoming aware of it becomes easier. When we read, we stop breathing hurry and worry and disappointment and we breathe words.

Painting copyright: Christopher Clark