I reached the top of the hill and turned around to face the harbor. I lowered myself onto the long, green park bench and watched the scene unfold. The harbor was full of boats and the loop was full of cars and seafood delivery trucks. At the bottom of my field of vision was the old dory shop and the Maritime Heritage Museum. To the right was the Coast Guard barracks, its right wall parallel to a large tree framing a slice of the outer harbor. The slice occasionally showcased a glimpse of a far-off tall ship racing in the stiff breeze.
A happy realization spread through me: I was alone for an indeterminate period of time. I could sit, watch, listen and breathe as I chose. This is no mean gift for a mother of three small children. What should I do with myself? I sat for some minutes watching the occasional puffy cloud traverse the sky, mirroring the white sails of the ships maneuvering through the harbor. Of course, I looked for shapes and, in keeping with the nautical theme, imagined lots of strangely shaped fish. My eyes were stung by the bright sunlight but I was glad I was without my sunglasses.
It didn't take long for me, though, to close my eyes and lower myself down even more, into a prone position stretched across the length of the bench. The experience changed dramatically. Now I was keenly aware of the changes in temperature as the sun ducked behind clouds. Now I noted every shift in the breeze, my hair and clothing impromptu wind socks. The soft tickle of breeze along my top line contrasted with the hard bench against my back. I could smell a little mown grass, a little oil, a little fried seafood, and a lot of ocean salt. I could hear a constant din of vehicles, people, sirens, bells, and gulls.
In my cone of solitude, I was crowded up against senses that I do not normally indulge. When I am running full-tilt through my day, my receptors narrow the sensory input - a necessary defense designed to encourage operation at peak efficiency. Stopping to smell the roses is counterproductive when you have money to earn and mouths to feed. So this virtual moment out of my day was a rare and wonderful treat for my deprived nerves.
I surprised myself by not falling asleep. But I was completely rested and relaxed by this short spell of basic, primal sensation. When I heard those small but nearing cries of "mommy, mommy", I could open my eyes feeling as refreshed as if I had experienced a full night's sleep. And I couldn't help but smile as I watched the three small, bobbing heads climb the crest of the hill.