“Morning brings back the heroic ages” – Henry D. Thoreau
On the mornings that I walk my love, my child – Nikka, a brown and white Pit Bull who resembles a cow – I rise from my bed as the man in the moon and return as the Helios of an internal sphere. Ready with the burden of sticks I fell asleep with, I beckon and ease my perpetual toddler out from underneath her warm blankets and together we step out into a world that is never the same on any two mornings, yet wears the guise of continuity.As often as I can, I let Nikka lead me through the streets, crossing intersection after intersection until we’ve strayed too far from home or our stomachs begin to protest. To me, whose feet have known little other ground than the asphalt and concrete of New York, Nikka seems to understand the roads better, often stopping to listen to what I imagine is the pulse of the Earth before choosing a path.
The most comforting mornings are those when we leave the house before the sun has risen. With the moon still holding domain of the vast sky which looks like the result of a celestial being knocking over its ink bottle, we tread softly, the sterile street lamps weaving cloaks of early shadows for us to wear. We return home soon after the moon does, feeling a subtle sense of satisfaction for having witnessed the world while it was still dazed by sleep. If I’m lucky, a pair of crows is perched on the telephone wires near my house and they call out to me, “Hello! Hello!” as I walk home, though most people misunderstand it as “Farewell! Farewell!”.
On most days, the ink of the sky is diluted and rubbed out by the time we reach the outdoors. The sidewalks are not bereft of pedestrians and the shrill chirping of birds is accompanied by the chorus of tires and engines. Small acorns burst under the sole of my sneakers and I feel guilty for walking over some squirrel’s food, pondering what kind of mother would strew her children’s food so carelessly before remembering her meticulous greatness which shows even the smallest detail in nature to be a form of perfection. What would I know of acorns and squirrels? Somewhere in the distance, I hear church bells and I need not ask for whom they toll. The answer to that could be found even in the crack of a step, in the insignificant leaf Nikka ate two houses ago, and in the fragments of an acorn.
It is here, in the subtle sublime web of nature that makes the winds dance and the trees wink and nod at me that I most sharply sense my mortality. I walk underneath the trees that stand sentinel to the sprawling giant of Bulova Corporate Headquarters, an inset stone clock mathematically counting away seconds as the world races by it. I imagine the architectural behemoth, which was structured to mimic the workings of a watch, to be the abode of Chronos. When I pass by the building, and even when I do not, he solemnly checks his fragile pocket watch from his crimson robes and nods at me, as if to say that there is still time left before his harvest. I am drawn again and again to that area, where Time is neighbored by a lovely little playground and surrounded by tall trees and short shrubs. The leaves litter the cobblestone before the park and looking at the beautiful contrast, I wonder if Hector even once paused to admire the groves outside Troy’s walls before he was cut down by Achilles. Was it only in death that his body breathed in the rich scent of his home-soil – as he was dragged through it by the heels? We rise from dust and soon return back to it. Are the womb and the tomb not one and the same?
To me, nature is at once beautiful and nurturing as well as mysterious and dangerous, because “[the] mother of life is at the same time the mother of death” (Campbell 303), and everything in nature is tinged with the hues of mortality. Nothing lasts except, perhaps, nature herself and so I am drawn to her in the same way that Nikka turns in circles on her bed because her ancestors did so to flatten the grass they were to lay on – more out of a habit with origins unknown to me than out of logic. And it is here in a tiny park dwarfed by a corporate center that I search for the world navel so that I may understand how to live in balance – accepting the marriage between nature and artifice without demeaning her.
Like moths, we’re drawn to her and desire to be one with her but are so grounded in our material possessions that it burns and destroys us to actually do so. We’re no Buddhas. But is it not she, our benevolent devouring mother, Nature, who inspires both the peak of lofty ambitions as well as the simple desire to sleep gratefully under a tree’s shade while thinking it our mother’s lap. As I gaze at the playground and Nikka sniffs flowers, I realize that we need not give up everything to appreciate her. Is not the act of contemplation a mark of change? Though she has been invaded, surrounded by buildings and metal bars, does she still not have the ability to arouse a deep respect from us? Is human history not saturated with praise for her? Try as we may, who may monopolize on the beauty of the morning when it can only barely be captured by the words of the most gifted poet?
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1972. Print.
Thoreau, Henry D. Walden, Civil Disobedience, and Other Writings. New York: Norton Critical Editions. 2008.Print.