Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Water Drops on Glass

"Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the surface of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what's going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise." ~ Annie Dillard

I was crouched down, turning my face to the left and leaning my cheek against my forearm as I looked at the clouded glass of my shower door the other night. The warped pane of glass was steamed up, the shower head was spouting thousands of hot water drops against my back and shoulders, producing that meditative white noise I constantly crave. My anxious mind, a continuous myriad of thoughts, is often a runaway train; yet when I'm there, it's as though the entire world around me is shut out and I'm reverent, if only for a moment. This time, I became fixated on the glass, I felt myself drawn to it somehow, as though in a trance. More specifically, my eyes locked onto the rain drops trailing from the top of the glass door to the bottom, leaving hundreds of watery, vertical streams in their wake. 

Each drop rolled down at its own pace; some, languidly slithering along the bumps in the glass while others scurried past them, fervidly moving from side to side, as though maneuvering through an invisible labyrinth. I remember just staring at them, transfixed by their diversity from one another. I remember tilting my head with slight curiosity as to what made one drop fall with such velocity while the one following directly in its path started and stopped and eventually changed direction altogether to create a completely different streak. I began to imagine the raindrops as individual lifelines, individual people and their respective paths. No one's is exactly the same, yet they're all headed in the same direction, to the same eventual end or, depending on your beliefs, the same threshold of transition.

It got me thinking about how much I've been looking to everyone around me, to their paths for direction, because maybe they're farther along than I am, or are perceived to be father along. I'd find myself wondering what I could be doing better, what I'm doing wrong; thinking, "one of them must have the answer or know the secret to happiness."

But as I hugged my knees and I homed in on each water drop as it fell, it quickly occurred to me that I could not focus on all of them at once. They were constantly streaming down the glass in every direction, at every pace, forcing me to refocus and look at the entire landscape before me, forcing me to see the bigger picture, just as Annie Dillard describes above. The "right" questions were no longer the above ones, about trying to find my own path in the paths of others. It was about recognizing that even those who begin on the same trail, or those who look to others for guidance, eventually deviate onto new ground and carve out their own channel in life. Some move more quickly than others, some gain far less in rushed movement than those who take their time, and some lose out when not seizing a moment. Regardless, we're all headed in the same direction and we all carve our own, unique paths to get there.

So, as I looked at the glass in front of me, my sight expanded. And instead of watching every drop's path -- just as I've been watching the paths of those people all around me and closest to me, searching for direction, for answers, for the "right" way -- I looked at the entire tapestry before me ...

It was life, in all its magnificent, complex beauty, and it was represented in one of the simplest forms possible.

Water drops on glass.

~ C ~

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