Pain is a curious thing. It softens us, makes us less likely to resist receiving input from the world around us. Ask anyone who is suddenly freed from acute or chronic pain and they will tell you that they emerge with sharpened senses: Colors are brighter, smells are sweeter, food has a more intense taste. We are at once more perceptive and more malleable.
Emerging from a period of intense stress can have the same effect, but it extends as well to our perception and reaction to our environment and those who share it.
I am on the roof of the hospital over at University; the buildings on this campus are more accessible than on my own and this perch affords me a view that extends perhaps 10 miles in all directions. I am always amazed at the beauty that exists in the structure and architecture of this city, which has been the object of so many criticisms and so much ridicule over the years. Seeing it from a height allows me to ignore minor flaws: I can appreciate the aesthetics of the interplay between granite and sandstone without seeing that the storefronts of the buildings are vacant; the construction fences and barrels look like carnival banners when I am not inconvenienced by the traffic they block.
Being up here also lets me see out to the lake, some four miles north of here. The wind is blowing in from the north, carrying the smell of water to me. The August algae blooms, which will give the air and water here a distinctly “organic” smell later in the summer, haven’t started yet: the clean breeze today speaks of renewal. Coupled with a new appreciation of the beauty I cannot see when I am feeling strong, the total effect relaxes me, makes me breathe a little deeper, slows my pace and reminds me that there are priorities in this world that are bigger than my own.
Not everything from last week has resolved yet, but I am speaking less, walking more, and making my decisions more slowly and deliberately this week. It is a good thing.