Florida Afternoon

Blue rippling water.

Instead of freezing my toes off this week in a Canadian winter, I’m in the fortunate position of sitting poolside in a Florida suburb with an icy glass of cranberry juice at my elbow staring at the sun ripples on the lapis-coloured water. At my feet sit two dogs, one a frisky terrier/chihuahua blend and the other, an ancient hound of dubious parentage but gentle disposition.

I’m listening to some extraordinary classical piano through my ear buds.  The music is almost loud enough to drown out the stereophonic dissonance coming from the neighboring yards.  On one side, a very loud visitor from one of the northern states – sounds like New Jersey to me – is carrying on a cell phone conversation.  He is in his pool, the phone is on a table about 10 yards away and he is clearly able to be heard by his listener whose amplified replies incite much merriment and splashing.  He also sneezes frequently with such force as to, I am sure, propel him quite a distance across the water.

On the other side, a neighbor is listening to rap music that, in kind fashion, he is sharing with the neighbors who, I am sure he is convinced, share his musical tastes and are tapping their feet to his tunes at least five houses down the street.

Occasionally, planes drone overhead and the sound of motorized lawn mowers and leaf blowers punctuate the far from still afternoon to tame the tropical lawn and shrub growth that otherwise might threaten to engulf the beautifully landscaped grounds of the nearby homes.

All of this to say, my patience is being tested.

I brought my computer out to the sun dappled patio to listen to the cardinals and jays who inhabit the hedges in these yards, to watch the amazing Florida puffy clouds roll by and to think about life, about decisions and choices, about beginnings and endings.  I am listening to a cello concerto through my ear buds so that I do not burden others with my classical choices.  I am feeling resentful, even angry, that I don’t control this airspace and that my ability to think a complete thought is being challenged.

I say that I am being tested because I am testing myself. My own emotional flexibility and control are on the line.  Should I, as I might have done in the past, shout out, slam doors, feel sulky and ill done by? Should I spend the rest of the afternoon being angry and generating a negative pall on all around me?

Should I choose instead to celebrate my neighbor’s joy in his exuberant conversation with distant relatives? Can I not revise my thinking to understand my other neighbor’s delight in the musical rhythms he uses to motivate himself to do some hard exercising that will prevent him from having a second heart attack?  Should I think about the travelers overhead going to far off places to have great adventures? Couldn’t I appreciate the hard work of the landscaping teams, laboring in the heat of an afternoon Florida sun to manicure the lawns and trim the trees of this lovely suburb?

I’m shifting my paradigms, taking out my ear buds, swimming in this sea of fellow earth dwellers enjoying their Saturday afternoons, hard earned and brief.  Another time for cello and birdsong. Maybe do a couple of laps to the undeniable imperatives of Drake and Machine Gun Kelly.  

For some reason, I feel just fine with this idea.

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