I've got John Lennon's "Watching the Wheels" on. I've been thinking lately about my front steps and the amount of time I spend sitting on them. We don't have a porch so I end up on the steps watching my daughters write draw in chalk on the driveway, sitting with the dog, talking with neighbors.
Time was I dreamed of living by a river, a lake, the ocean, a place where I could watch water. It soothes. Somehow it just works. I have, on several occasions, passed hours staring at the water, watching sunlight hit it just so, feeling it move me. I’ve put a lot into dreaming about a place like that and some envy too. My parents had a place on a river. Friends have a house on an island in a lake. Yet I’m stuck, landlocked, in Syracuse.
I'm not sure how I began sitting on the front steps, but I did, bringing the computer or a notebook for writing, a book to read, coffee to sip. I just began watching the sun set over the drumlin across the street, waking up and testing the day with half an hour of watching the leaves and sky.
Recently, watching only the pavement, the lawns, and the trees, I’ll feel as if things are moving. I feel the grass grow. I know it's crazy. I sense pavement swelling, cracking, shifting in the road. I know the ground is in flux and that the drumlin, left by some ancient glacier, is a sign of change and movement.
I watch the street as I would watch a lake, a river, an ocean: to feel it move me.
I let the world move. Cars pass. I listen to the roar of the garbage-picker's truck, loaded with scrap metal and junk. I wave or raise my coffee mug. People stop by with their dogs and are surprised at how well our dog behaves. And I see myself reflected in that dog. Happy, interested, peaceful, with no need to rush off.
People go, traffic dries up, my kids go to bed, and the bugs come out. Soon, I will go inside. The coffee is gone, the night is coming, there's the street light blinking alive, but for the moment I have nowhere to be, nothing to do, no one to meet. It's just me, the evening, and a street standing in place of the water I've dreamed of.
I still dream of place near water. Maybe it's a sign that I'm not pushing hard enough, but I'm happy on the front step, especially with my daughters playing in the yard, my dog chasing the occasional squirrel, and the soft touch of my wife's hand on my shoulder as she sits beside me to watch the wheels go round and round.
John Lennon took a break from the life of a star to be with his son. I still chug through normal life, reading and writing, teaching school, coaching soccer, and driving my kids wherever they need to be. I’m still in my regular routine, but I’m taking a break from the nagging feeling that I'm not achieving enough and that somewhere someone is disappointed in me.
I don't have this peace of mind every minute of the day, but more often than not I find it on the front steps doing not much at all. If there is any loftier goal than that kind of peace, I haven’t found it yet.