On my way home from Crossfit yesterday morning, I passed a man walking to the library. I was on a back, between-the-mountains road—my favorite kind to drive. It follows a creek that twists and winds through a low point between hills. One side of the road is a rocky steep up, with the occasional driveway breaking through leading to houses on high wooded ground. The other side is an equally steep drop down to the creek, also with driveways connected to homes not on high ground at all. It is a road barely wide enough for two vehicles, snaking along, creating one blind spot after another. This road is not only my favorite. It is also popular amongst area cyclists. And while I can’t fault them for this, it is a severe practice in patience when I come up behind one of them.
Yesterday was not the first time I’ve seen this gentleman walking along that country-mountain road. I see him often at the same time—on my way home—in just about the same place. He always has a single book in his hand and is walking toward our local library branch, which is located at the end of the road where it connects back into town at an elementary school, ball fields, and businesses.
Every time I see my book-walking gentleman, I get this sense I should pay attention; notice the moment. Notice him. He looks about retirement age, though his hair is still a ruddy brown and the few creases on his face add a certain contentment to his demeanor. At the point on the road where I see him, he is still some distance from the library. I don’t know from which driveway or bend in the road he is coming. It could be a mighty long walk from his place to the library’s entrance. His pace is a measured harmony with creation around him—the creek and canopy of trees seem fitted on purpose for his traveling. The book he carries is always tucked neatly in his cupped palm, swinging with his arm like a grandfather clock pendulum, ticking him steadily forward. Every time I pass him in my giant suburban I instinctively slow to a near crawl, trying to make as little disturbance to his space as possible; feeling a certain guilt for my intrusion.
Why does this gentleman capture my attention so (beyond that he has a book in his hand)? Why bother with considering him and his weekly library routine?
I’m not sure. I never get this ‘Ah-ha’ moment when I see him. Or wisp out a cliché sigh and imagine how someday I’ll la-la-la my way to the library and have all the luxuries of an unhurried life (assuming he does?). I’m not sure I can articulate what it is that seeing this man does for me. It happens somewhere deep within—beyond simple logic or easy antidote.
But there is this: Every time I see my book-walking gentleman I feel as though I am witnessing one walking in a gift. It is the gift of time he chooses to receive. By his walking and not driving, he receives time as a gift, rather than something to frantically grasp at it.
This isn’t a phrase entirely of my own imagining. Last week I finished reading, Living the Sabbath, by Norman Wirzba. In it, he references another book, Receiving the Day, by Dorothy Bass (I love the way reading books strings me along to finding more books). I haven’t read Ms. Bass’ book; I’m sure it won’t be long before I order it. But the title alone has me thinking. What if I shifted my typical, throat-strangling approach to time? What if I could turn away from seizing the day, and choose to receive it instead? What if I walked into the hours of my day as I would a vast open meadow at the edge of a wood?
Or, like a man choosing to walk to the library along a winding country road. Accepting the time to travel (or whatever other time I typically treat as wasted)—not as a black hole in the timeline of one’s day—but rather, the gift of full living in the between times, too.
What would it look like if we—you and I—lived in a way that received time? All of time. I wonder what would change?