November 16, 1997

Slow No Wake

I often take a walk down my street, a pretty country lane. It runs parallel to the Ipswich River and winds through the marshes and the old farmlands. I peek at the river as I go, but mostly I solve the day’s problems. My mind is always going. As part of the walk I pass over a new bridge which spans the creek running to the river, which shortly flows into the ocean. I particularly love the open marshes beyond the bridge. There is something about open expanses that moves me.

Today I stopped on the bridge. I rarely stop because the marsh and the end of the street is my real destination. I noticed that all of the boats were now out of the water and their moorings were gone. Winter is coming. But no, there was one boat about fifty feet away that was still tied up to the dock. I did not notice that sailboat at first. And then a duck landed in the water across the creek. It was soon joined by two friends and they got into line for their trip up the creek. Geese rose up out of the marsh and fled in formation. Small terns squeaked as they flew overhead.

And that sailboat had a stunning reflection in the water. It took me a few more minutes to notice that. The longer I stood there, the more I saw and heard: the swirling currents of the water, the airplane overhead, the rustle of the wings of the flying geese, the church bells filling the Sunday morning and more.

I was struck that all of this unfolded in layers. My mind and senses were unable to take it in all at once. It was a progressive revelation dependent on time and attitude - dependent on me. It was not dependent on what was happening because what was happening was being filtered by me. This scene full of action and animation is available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. I am available less often. I rarely stop on the bridge. I am headed someplace else. My mind is someplace else.

I noticed that my shoulders relaxed as I stood there. Of course I did not know that they were tense. But there was a significant release into the life outside of my head.

When I left the bridge I noticed that a channel buoy had been washed up to the edge of the marsh. It said, “SLOW NO WAKE.” The “NO” had one of those red circles with a line through it, just in case you could not read well. It spoke to me, “SLOW NO AWAKE,” “SLOW NOT AWAKE,” “SLOW DOWN, YOU’RE NOT AWAKE!”

I got the message.

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