afternoon contemplation

Today was a lovely day. A blue sky, mild weather sort of day. Brisbane springtime at its best. Around mid-afternoon, after having met up with a friend for lunch and a general catch up, I made my way over to my favourite grassy spot in South Bank to just sit and relax.

I’ve gotten into the habit of always (or almost always) bringing pen and paper, and a novel with me wherever I go; but today I’d also brought earphones, and decided I just wanted to sit back, listen to music, and people-watch. (Well, initially I did try to write a bit, but the inspiration wasn’t really coming, so I didn’t worry about it.)

There were several clusters of people – some with children – who were out picnicking or just enjoying the sunshine. There were a number of couples around, just enjoying each other’s company, and quite a few individuals out enjoying some solitude.

This particular spot also has a good view of the river and the CBD, but whenever I’m outside, my eyes are always drawn toward the sky. As I sat by the river this afternoon, gazing, in turn, at the water and at the sky, I thought of what Haruki Murakami wrote in his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, about how he is drawn toward water, whether as lakes or rivers or other natural manifestations. I don’t have that same connection with water, but perhaps it’s not dissimilar to my affinity for the sky.

As the afternoon progressed, I’d written a few notes – some for a birthday card for a friend, some for the story I’m currently writing – but I still hadn’t taken my book out of my bag, or had any strong desire to read. It’s not that I was feeling at all apathetic or anything of the sort, but I didn’t feel a need to add anything to this tranquil afternoon.

When the afternoon was about to start transforming into evening, I received a message from a friend who had just woken from a nap. I subsequently told her where I was, and how it was a lovely afternoon, with the unintended result of causing her to lament an afternoon “wasted” indoors.

As the sun disappeared below the horizon, and the moon made its ascent, I headed home. When it was properly dark, it occurred to me that it was a lovely night outside. Perhaps it is a bit cold, and, yes, it is dark, but the moon is almost (if not completely) full, and there are stars, and it is peaceful. Why, then, are people less inclined to lament a lovely night spent indoors?

Maybe you could argue that we are not nocturnal, and hence we appreciate sunshine more than starlight; but I don’t know anyone who goes to bed as the sun goes down, so we must spend a significant part of our waking hours in the nighttime.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that we should start spending every perfect night outside, or even every perfect day outside. That would be exhausting, even for someone like me who genuinely enjoys being outdoors. (I have been known to get off the bus one stop earlier just so that I can spend more time walking home – both during the day and at night.)

This afternoon, in the almost two hours that I was sitting by the river, I didn’t really get anything done. I just had a chance to relax and recharge and ponder. I listened to music, wrote a little bit, and just sat there, staring into space. I could’ve accomplished all of that at home, sitting on the floor of my bedroom with the curtains drawn, and been equally satisfied, whether or not there are blue skies outside.

And maybe none of this was immediately productive, but these hours of nothingness are often necessary for recharging, and are thus, arguably, conducive to productivity, or at least to well-being, which is what really matters, right?

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