If you want to fully feel the urgency of “now” watch a veteran roofing crew begin work on a house. There’s no time to get in touch with their feelings, they pull up, assess and get on with it. Get it done ASAP, and move on to the next house tomorrow.

It’s the first Tuesday in September, and the first day of school pictures will be snapped all over Massachusetts. New Hampshire went back last week, but really that’s just to get a head start on snow days to come. School begins in earnest this week from kindergarten to college. And so [unofficially] summer ends, Autumn begins, and there’s a heightened sense of the moment.

I read Leaves of Grass last week. More precisely I finished Leaves of Grass last week. Walt Whitman has some brilliant prose, and some sprinkled liberally throughout this work, but there’s a lot of chewing to get this one down. Lot of Walt getting in touch with his sensuality stuff in there that proved controversial for the time, but this isn’t going to be a post about the work as a whole. Instead, this line jumped out at me:

Great is today, and beautiful, It is good to live in this age… there never was any better.” – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Whitman wrote that sometime between 1850 and 1855, when Leaves of Grass was published. It was before the Civil War and other dark days in Whitman’s life. But there are always dark days, and always vibrant days throughout history. Life is the ebb and flow. Don’t bury your head in the sand when darkness reigns, but don’t ignore the extraordinary gift of now we’ve been given either.

Look around. Look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now.” – The Schuyler Sisters, Hamilton

Be alive, right now. That’s all there is. We can’t time travel backwards, and we can’t hit fast-forward.  We all know Aesop’s fable about the ants and the grasshopper, but he wasn’t saying there’s no time for play, he was saying that we need to harvest first, then dance and sing.  So by all means work, and build that nest egg, but don’t lose sight of this magic moment along the way. 

Do not be concerned with the fruit of your action – just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord.” – Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

I’m weighing that fable as roofers strip the roof over my head and I contemplate Whitman. The irony isn’t lost on me, I’ve been on construction crews and know their world. They don’t stop to smell the roses for very long, but sometimes a moment appears. As I spoke with them before they started I pointed to the ripe grapes they would soon cover over to protect them from debris and told them to help themselves. They savored the sweetness of the grapes with audible pleasure, even as they got on with the work at hand. The fruit came of it’s own accord, then it was time to get back to work.