I love my accountant. The walls of his office display a 40-year collection of IRS cartoons, and he does everything he can to keep our yearly meeting light. But there’s nothing like an hour’s contemplation of tax code intricacies to make your head spin and put kinks in your center line. Money, when you have to part with it, compresses the body. Which is how I walked out of the office. I set out for home, a good 20 miles away. The day was sparkling and clear from an overnight rain, and I drove on a relatively untrafficked stretch of highway, north toward the San Gabriel Mountains. Because the California aquaduct borders that stretch of road, there’s lots of undeveloped space and not many billboards.
About 5 minutes into the drive I revived enough to recognize that my hands were gripping the steering wheel—hanging on to my money, perhaps? Tension in my hands usually indicates that I've been overly focused on something, and is one of my personal cues to widen my visual field--to take a"space break".
A Perceptual Shift
Now as I looked at the cloud-draped crests of the mountains I remembered this poem by Gary Snyder:
I've been reading recently that prior to the emergence of alphabetic writing (about 700 BCE), humans' perceptions might have been more like this poem, with more rapport with the natural world, and a thinner membrane between subject and object, perceiver and perceived. Snyders’ verse invited me to allow that the mountains might be aware of me, a white speck on that grey line down below.
Perhaps, deep within our brains from millennia past, is a memory that that was the way we interacted with nature—before the gods became separated out from it. We knew that our surroundings were as alive and as sentient as we ourselves. The mountains didn’t have any opinion about me. They were simply aware.
When the road turned away from the mountains, I let the trees along the highway witness me as I sped past, not merely as landscaping, but as presences in their own rights. Closer to home, at an intersection, I let myself be noticed by the weeds that had sprung up through concrete cracks.
I can’t swear that my posture improved, but I know that my breathing slowed and I became more relaxed. When that happens, anyone’s body yields more completely to gravity’s support, and that is always the first step in renewing healthy posture. Because of my spacious perception of the mountains, I’m pretty sure I was sitting taller in my seat, enough that you could have measured a difference. But I wasn’t concerned with my posture just then. I was too busy enjoying equanimity with respect to the IRS.
© 2014 Mary Bond