February 16, 2017 (Thursday)

by Yule Heibel on February 15, 2018

I am stunned by the sight beyond my window: a plush, velvety expanse of whiteness, of fresh fat snow covers every surface, from the tiniest branches of leaf-bare trees – now magnified by their enrobement to thrice their size – to the comparatively vast square footage of roofs below me. And this plushness fills the air still, as snow continues to fall.

At the same time, the soundscape is filled with the loud thrum and muffled roar of machines – the snow throwers and plows clearing sidewalks, driveways, and roads. Right now I’m enthralled by the sight. The air is so thick with snow, and the branches, too, are so thickly cloaked by snow, it’s hard to tell where tree ends and sky begins on the horizon. Close-up, the branches near my window: these are clearly, if not cleanly (because plush) delineated. You could reproduce them in an ink drawing, perhaps. The further away, though, the more they merge with atmosphere.

I’m not sure what to make of all this snow. It’s beautiful right now, and I appreciate that. But it’s an obstacle, too, at least here, in places where people need to get out, move, go to work. So it becomes an obstacle to duty all of a sudden.

And just as suddenly you’re required to hold two seemingly opposite thoughts in mind – beauty and duty. I suppose the people who win this challenge are the ones who cheerfully wield their shovels, who laugh and say, “Isn’t this beautiful,” as they destroy it by pushing it aside. Or is that too unfair? It is hard, though, to appreciate this as beautiful when all the time that tugs at you as duty. So, do people eventually yoke those two together, to the point of considering their duty as something beautiful in itself? Is this the point when we reach some sort of social or community compact, or tread too closely to soft fascism?

In my “Appreciation” meditation this morning, I asked myself the question (“Who or what do you appreciate the most in your life right now?”), and the first feeling – or feeling-thought – that arose was “protection.” And “safety.” I feel protected and safe, here in my house. And I realized how this feeling reached back well into childhood, perhaps infancy, where in the latter (infancy) I probably did have protection, but in the former (childhood) I most certainly often enough did not. Part of my subsequent DNA has been the seeking of protection – even if the essential “dysfunctionalism” of my childhood led me to great and dangerously self-destructive risk-taking. But true protection – in love I receive and love I give – is what I really appreciate.

Then, as is the mind’s wont, that feeling sort of faded, and instead “beauty” pushed its way forward as the thing I most appreciate. (Maybe protection as love is fundamentally beautiful, too?) I think this was sparked, obviously, by the tremendous beauty I had gawked over when I sat down this morning.

But no sooner had this feeling (“beauty”) waltzed slowly through my mind that another very distinct feeling began to goose-step ever so slightly into view: duty. I appreciate duty? I was appalled, at least a bit. Love is dutiful? Yes, I suppose. But DUTY? Me? The wild, crazy, risk-taking, authority-fucking teenager? Oh, wait. I’m no teen any longer… Hm. Duty. It’s a strange feeling.

W. is to go into Boston today for a 10:30 interview. It will my duty – our duty, too – to clear the car of snow, for even if he walks to the station, he’ll need a ride home later, to be on time for a 4:30 call with another company. Duty. I appreciate that? The mind is strange.

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