Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cool and still

The air is so cool tonight, and the evening so still. There are crickets and other animal sounds, but their calls seem to resonate with the night and with me. I can feel the wetness in my hair from a recent shower. My skin feels like it is the most porous of boundaries between my body and the rest of the world. I can feel my heart beating. I heard recently that most animals live as long as it takes their hearts to beat about 1 and a half billion times. Thanks to several factors, humans live significantly longer than that. Yet it seems that any beat past that count is something borrowed. I walked out of a hotel this morning before breakfast and sat on a bench to smoke a cigarette. A tall, slight black man, bald and perhaps in his 50s, but maybe older, too, pushed through the double doors with some speed. Four paces from the doors, he stopped and looked straight out, his arms dangling from slightly stooped shoulders. "Whoa," he said, in a voice that suggested either dimness or wonder. "It's a beautiful day." He looked at me and I agreed. He walked past the bench and maybe just to himself, but definitely out loud, he said, "I'm glad I'm here to see it."

Later today, the following quote from James Michener's "Centennial" ran through my head.
"In the year 9268 B.C. at the chalk cliffs west of Rattlesnake Buttes, a human being twenty-seven years old, and therefore ancient and about to die, studied a chunk of rock which a younger man had quarried from the mountains."

Right around age 27. Biologically speaking, that's how long we're supposed to live. Everything else is a gift of hygiene, medicine and our relative mastery of the natural world.