The present moment is all I have
As I pray, I can only connect with God in the present moment, not in the past, not worrying about the future. It took me decades to embrace this truth as expressed so beautifully in The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. I had to learn how to just be in God’s presence, now, at this moment, because He is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
“As long as I can still get out of bed in the morning,” my husband announced at the end of another sticky humid day, “I am not spending another summer in Florida.”
We were ambling along the path, running parallel to the Intra Coastal Waterway near home. Nary a squirrel in sight. Comfortable in their treetop nests where there was a breeze.
“Next year,” he continued, “we are going to pick up our boat on Lake Ontario, spend the summer in the north, and make our way back to Florida after the hurricane season.”
It Was 2019- Covid Was Raging
Canada had closed its border, and the world went on shut down. There is only so much housecleaning, gardening, writing, and knitting a woman can do before she needs something else to keep her happy at home. When your husband’s jokes are no longer funny, and you’re threatening to break out in hives at his mere presence, emergency measures are called for.
A long-lost dream surfaced
I dusted my upright Bechstein piano, circa 1920, which had stood in my bedroom growing up, had it tuned, and dug out some books.
I’m a University Dropout
I dropped out many moons ago. Too many to calculate, but if one feels so inspired, it is fifty-plus years of moons: new moons, sickle moons, full moons, and every variation thereof.
The reason? I had been a music major and had failed music theory. I had to repeat the fourth year. All my friends had left, waving their degrees and caps and tassels.
Only I was back. In the same dorm room I’d occupied for the last two years.
I sat on my bed, criss-cross legs with my right knee hitting the wall on one side and the left edging over the bed on the other side. A lumpy pillow behind me, a half-empty coffee mug on the floor. Blobs of unresolved creamer on top. Listlessly, I sorted through those dreaded theory files.
It was simply too depressing. I packed my bags and went home.
Those days are long behind me now.
Holding on to a Dream
Boating was out of the question and tempers were as frayed as my favorite jeans shorts. A diversion was required.
“I think I’ll start studying again,” I told my husband.
Who promptly decided that a grand piano would be a suitable birthday present.
Life was great, and life was grand, and the months flew by as I reconnected with my long-lost and demanding lover, the piano.
Enter 2021 and a life normalized due to vaccination and the lifting of both masks and restrictions
True to his word, my husband had planned to be away from Florida. All his Canadian geese in a row.
We were going to live on a 50-foot Express boat for close to five months. This boat is not intended for long-term living. It’s like luxury camping.
I didn’t enjoy camping in my twenties and enjoy it even less in my seventies. When the weather is good, you can be outside for walks and exploring. If it turns iffy, you are trapped on that boat. And when it’s heavy rain, the canvas covering on the aft deck leaks in many places. Life with ten soaking wet towels is interesting. Especially if no promise of sun for the next two days.
Also, dogs must be walked. And wet dogs smell like wet dogs. Even more so when in a contained space.
But as the planning took shape, the elephant in the room raised its six-foot-something shape — my beloved grand piano.
“We’ll get you a keyboard,” the husband said. And he did.
Now, it’s a huge step down from a grand piano to a keyboard, albeit a good one, but that wasn’t the problem.
The boat has two cabins. A master cabin where resides a massive and odd-shaped bed from hell. So-called as it has no walk-around space and making it requires exciting gymnastics.
A fair-sized second cabin with a double bed at the bottom and a single bunk above.
The plan was that the keyboard would live in the second cabin, leaving the lounge area free for dogs and people. Only, when we got on board, the keyboard didn’t quite fit. The door would have to remain open.
Like an ark of biblical proportions, the keyboard came to rest in the lounge area, effectively taking up a third of the floor space.
The dogs and their toys took up another third, and we were left to share the leftover third with two coffee tables.
After docking the first day out, I ran through a few scales to warm up my fingers. Tackled the Beethoven sonata I was working on.
My husband stuck his head into the lounge.
“It’s beautiful out,” he said, ignoring the rule of never interrupting when I’m practicing. He wouldn’t dare come near me at home, but we are within a couple of feet of each other at all times on the boat.
“In Florida, we’d have to be indoors. It would be hot and muggy,” he added.
I looked up. The lounge wall was a couple of feet away. I looked around. It was messy with dog paraphernalia and human toys. Like books, knitting, maps, computers, and more. I went to look outside.
The lake shimmered and danced on diamond tips while the breeze helped along, creating small waves the ducks rode expertly. Overhead, seagulls soared with the wind while others quarreled on the dock over a piece of bait.
I went back inside, turned off the keyboard, and that was that.
The Present Moment
I thought and thought until my head ached. Why, why now in my seventies am I trying to reach the skill levels I had at twenty? Why not enjoy my remaining years taking it easy?
Why not enjoy these days on the boat, with my husband and the dogs, spending as much time as possible outside?
Eckhart Tolle phrased it beautifully.
Now, as I take an early morning walk with my dogs, knowing that everything could change before my next breath, I realize I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing precisely what I should be doing.
I lift my face to the golden morning sun, feel the soft breeze and watch the scuttering clouds. I see my God in the magnificence of the sunrise and am grateful for each breath I take. His gift to me.
“yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”(James 4:14 ESV).
“Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” (Psalm 144:4).
(I’m aware of the Catholic Church’s stand on Eckhart Tolle and wish to point out that I used this quote to emphasize how fleeting life is.)