Sunset, Alameda South Shore

Facing the light

It is some­times easy to for­get how much influ­ence I have over my own state of mind. Undoubt­ed­ly it is because if my mind is unhap­py, it is my mind that is telling me that I am unhap­py. If I were to become hap­py, my mind would be wrong and I’d have to ques­tion my own pow­ers of obser­va­tion. As it is pos­si­ble to enter into a self-hyp­not­ic paral­y­sis until one tells one’s self the instruc­tion to move, so too is it pos­si­ble to acci­den­tal­ly enter into such a state.The most dan­ger­ous thing then is that things not get worse. It’s eas­i­er to bounce off the bot­tom than it is to stop from sink­ing. Or per­haps a bet­ter metaphor would be the com­par­a­tive dan­ger of heavy winds ver­sus doldrums.

I went for my walk today because I had a dif­fi­cult day. I’ve had a dif­fi­cult week and truth­ful­ly a dif­fi­cult month, but today my plans fell through and though the day start­ed pro­duc­tive, by the ear­ly evening I had an uncom­fort­able com­bi­na­tion of agi­ta­tion over the work I have left to do and a weari­ness that made me feel as though I could do noth­ing but take a nap. I even laid down but did not sleep or find it in any way restful.

I thought about going for a run, but I felt too tired. Even­tu­al­ly I decid­ed that a walk of mod­er­ate length would help. It was more like­ly that I could clear my head and catch a sec­ond wind than lie there star­ing at the ceil­ing until I felt bet­ter enough to get back to work. The Sun hung low in the sky so a walk on the beach as the Sun set seemed opportune.

It did­n’t hap­pen all at once, but there is an effect of putting one foot in front of the oth­er again and again. I walked on the beach rather than the paved path so walk­ing took more atten­tion than nor­mal to keep mov­ing and upright. It may not be obvi­ous that just the act of walk­ing can sneak­i­ly siphon enough men­tal atten­tion that trou­bles are slow­ly edged out, but over time it has a very real effect.

The sun­set was a good one. The hues were rich and the Sun appeared to land almost direct­ly on the Transamer­i­ca pyra­mid from where I was stand­ing. I found an emp­ty bench with a good view at Crown Beach and as I sat down I noticed that the bench bore a plaque that read:

> We used to be young and beau­ti­ful. Now we are beautiful.

…which I found to be a love­ly sen­ti­ment. Ain’t none of us get­ting any younger.

I stopped at Trad­er Joe’s on the way back to get myself some din­ner to bring home and as I was brows­ing the aisles shuf­fle play hap­pened across [*Noor (The light in my eyes)* by Azam Ali]( Of course Ms Ali’s voice is amaz­ing but for some rea­son in that moment it brought me from the already-achieved relief to a peace­ful awe not unlike a reli­gious experience. 

Now I’ve eat­en my din­ner (a spinach sal­ad) and it is get­ting late. I still have some work left to do but it might wait until the morn­ing. Right now though I could get some rest if I turned in, or I could accom­plish some­thing if I sit down to work. (It is not lost on me that sit­ting down to write 600-plus words about my evening walk is actu­al­ly accom­plish­ing *some­thing* — but it’s not the sort of some­thing that will pay my rent.) Either way I’ll prob­a­bly have more done and bet­ter rest by noon tomor­row than I would have if I’d stayed in the apart­ment and tried vain­ly to either rest or work. In the face of the choice between two paths that won’t work, a third path must be blazed.

Any of this I could have told you a few hours ago. But some­times I need prac­ti­cal proof that these things *are* true, and not just things that I talk about being true.

Bench plaque

[From Night to the Edge of Day — Azam Ali](

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