I went to visit my daughter in first grade. On the blackboard in her room was the following poem, entitled “Today.”
“Today. Today is Thursday, September 13. It is cloudy and cool.”
I spoke it under my breath. Several times. I went outside with my daughter for recess. She had been a little fearful about school that year.
I spent some time every day at school in those days. I felt like the mother bird that built a nest in our front yard. She flew in and out of the nest dozens of times a day. Flying out, flying back — most of the time without food in her mouth — just I imagine checking her nestlings. There was something soothing in this practice for me.
That’s what I was doing at school that day as I stood on the playground reciting the poem that had become my mantra: today is Thursday, September 13, it is cloudy and cool, feeling the kinship with the bird who had built a nest in my front yard. It is cloudy and cool. It was the “and” in the poem that grabbed me — it is cloudy and cool. It might have been written it is cloudy but cool implying some kind of value, like it’s a shame that it’s cloudy — but it’s cool — and what a relief the cool is after the interminable heat of August.
I began to appreciate the acceptance in that conjunction “and.” It is cloudy and cool. Who would have thought a couple of weeks ago, in the thick of the heat, the daily inexorable sun and the humidity, that soon it would be cool. It is cloudy and cool. That’s what I loved about the “and” — there’s no value at all in the poem. It was cloudy and cool, which is simply the way the day was.
I began then to appreciate the beauty in that acceptance. Not only is it what it is, but it is beautiful that way. I could play basketball that day without sunglasses — because it was cloudy and cool. It was a lousy day if you wanted to go swimming, but the days for swimming were over anyway. It was cloudy and cool. The days of swimming were past, new days now: cloudy and cool. Wonderful days to spend in the library reading, but not at the pool swimming. The swimming days were past; now it’s these days — different not better not worse — just is.
I loved the poem “Today.” I went home with my new mantra, speaking it to myself all day long.
The next day I took my daughter to school. An hour later, I was on my way to a meeting and I stopped in at school to check on my nestlings. I sat down in one of the little chairs next to her desk, and I remembered my mantra from yesterday.
I said, under my breath, “Today. Today is Thursday, September 13. It is cloudy and cool.” My daughter heard me and laughed. “No, Daddy,” she said. “It’s Friday. Look –” and she motioned to the blackboard.
It read, “Today. Today is Friday, September 14. It is sunny and cool.”
I forgot: that day was Friday, not Thursday, and on the board was a new poem. I began to speak it. “Today. Today is Friday, September 14. It is sunny and cool.”
“Isn’t it beautiful?” I said out loud, “it’s sunny and cool!” But not so different really. Another day – that day it was sunny while the day before was cloudy — not better not worse, just the beautiful Is-ness of that day.
“Yes,” she said, “it’s beautiful. And so was yesterday.”