Tranquil time on the common


Thursday, June 28, 2018

I’m an old woman living in Greenfield. Every day I can, I walk with my walker a few blocks to sit on the town common at noon. Sitting on the common is something in my life beyond the countless little numbers that pinprick my days.

I wake, look at the clock beside my bed, 7:30, drowse again, rouse myself, 10 after 8, think my aide, Joanne, will be here at 9, have to be up and going by then. What’s the temperature in the house? Fifty-eight, turn it up to 64. What’s  the temperature outside? Forty-five yesterday, 50 today. How many layers do I put on when I go out, and then take off as I walk on Davis Street toward Wilson’s. I get hot pushing the walker up the hill under the bright spring sun, but what about the wind? It’s the gusts of wind that make you chilly. Calculate, plan, decide, a little dance inside my head; all the time my feet are moving, slowly walking toward the common.

When I get close to the common — I meant to be there by 12, but see on the bank clock it’s 12:10 — I see Peel and Lance sitting cross-legged on the ground staring straight ahead as if they’ve been there forever (and who’s to say they haven’t? what happens before I round the corner is unknown to me). It’s as if time doesn’t matter any more. 

I cross Main Street and come up the concrete walk between the stone column with the eagle on top and the blooming daffodils in the garden they made (it wasn’t always there, that garden, I breathe thanks to the town for making it). I push my walker on to the greening grass under the maple tree in line with Peel and Lance, both of them sitting silent as statues. I stand and bow in front of Lance, then Peel, they bow back. I sit down on my walker, also sitting silent, only not on the welcoming ground. Still — and it is still in spite of noise, traffic, people walking by, even sirens and speeding vehicles — I am in another world now. Or the same world expanded into something more transcendent and yet more immediately present than I can possibly describe.

Sometimes I watch the clouds moving from west to east or the blue, blue sky, sometimes details of the scene around me — nod to the few who look at me — sometimes nothing at all. I am a part of it and apart from it — it is all here and I am here. I don’t say I never look at the numbers above the bank, I do: 12:15, 12:22, 12:27; 59, now 61. But they don’t matter.

Then the carillon of the nearby church chimes an annoyingly familiar hymn, my mind tries to put the right words to it and I try to draw my attention away. When the bells stop, Lance strikes the little metal bowl once, a bright clear ring. We bow to the street and to each other. We come back to the mundane world. But for me something has changed. I can’t tell you what it is, but I am grateful to return to my practice of sitting silent on the common.

Jay Goldspinner has lived in Greenfield since 1990, and has been sitting on the common with 2 or 3 others for almost 7 years, except for a  break over the past winter to recover from an operation.