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May 06, 2002: Spring

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There is a courtyard just outside the building where I work. It is tiny, a circle broken by three paths that stretch out like spokes on a wheel. Inside the courtyard are four picnic tables - the round metal kind flanked with molded metal chairs and topped with a wire mesh canopy to filter the sun. The tables are red - not a bright brash color but a darker and more somber tone. The courtyard stands between my office and the next as the bridge between them, and all three perch at the top of a small hill.

This afternoon I took my lunch outside and sat at one of the tiny tables, positioning myself so that I was protected from the direct sun, but had a perfect view. It was breezy enough that I had to tuck my hair into the back of my shirt, a reminder of how long it has been getting lately. The other three tables slowly filled as well - two with boisterous quartets laughing and loud in their conversations, and the fourth table with a solitary occupant who sat sideways so she could prop her feet on a second chair and read her book.

I ate slowly, letting myself take the time to enjoy the flavors. Homemade vegetable soup, full of broccoli, carrots, onions, celery and corn in a peppery tomato base. This batch I finally got perfect - the heat of the white pepper blending with the sweetness of the corn. I ate the chicken slowly too, cutting it carefully, two bites at a time. The chicken was cold, grilled the evening before with a cayenne pepper-based spice rub that lingers on the tongue long after it is gone. This is, by far, the best chicken Richard has cooked on the grill so far. There is nothing quite like cold barbequed chicken, especially when eaten on a sunny spring afternoon.

While I sat in that courtyard, at that tiny little red table, I realized, a bit reluctantly, that this is still a difficult thing for me. It is still hard for me to stop and let myself simply be still. To let myself listen to the voices of the other people sitting outside with me; to eavesdrop on their conversations and let my imagination determine who they were and what type of jobs they hold. To let myself see - to look for the source of the bird trills that occasionally interrupted the conversations, to admire the sky reflected in the mirrored windows of the office building adjacent to mine. To let myself watch other people and notice them too: the man who sat on one ledge while he ate his soup from an oversized white ceramic mug; the woman who strolled around the perimeter, taking slow and deliberate bites from an apple.

It may never be easy for me to take things slowly. My very nature is quick. I talk too fast; I even walk too fast. And as for work, well, I spent too many years running full-tilt to ever be comfortable at a slower pace now. But every once in a while, when the sun is shining in a perfect and cloudless sky and there are flowers and birds and people to watch, I can remind myself to try.

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