Note to expats: Be aware of your surroundings!
By Robert Bradley
My reading habits are pretty broad. I enjoy the derring-do of Jack Reacher with the same enthusiasm as when I read literary fiction, biographies, periodicals, or poetry. I’ve recognized that in every genre the subject of mindfulness in some manifestation arises and states the obvious: Being aware of your surroundings is a good idea.
I learned to follow this advice walking the sidewalks and crossing the streets of Cuenca.
In a previous column, I reported that I fell while visiting the flower market a few months back. Fortunately, it had a very happy ending. I was uninjured, and better yet, the result lingers still; I was rescued by a dozen people who comforted me, directed my attention to the cause of my stumble, and offered their sincere interest in my future well-being. I was profoundly moved (and helped to my feet), by folks instructing me in the art of mindfulness.
What I have not mentioned is the time I impulsively crossed the street and was hit by a car.
I was fresh to Cuenca, barely three weeks here. Late afternoon rain was in command, turning the last remnant of light into night.
While shooting photographs, I stepped into the street just in time to surprise a woman turning my way in a hurry to an appointment that she would now not make. I jumped as high as I could knowing it is better to roll over than to be rolled over, and kaboom!. She hit me. I was shocked, dazed and amazed. I was hit by a car! I slid off the car and examined myself quickly for injuries. The greatest damage was not to me, but the hood of the car I landed on.
There were no attendant strangers to comfort me this time, just an angry driver demanding to know what I thought I was doing, how could I be so stupid, and how am I going to pay for the repair.
It is now second nature to be alert for grumbling cars on cobblestone, and I plan my walk over buckled sidewalks with deliberate intention. It is part and parcel to developing awareness.
Writing this column, and taking photographs for CHL is another great opportunity for me to direct my energy with a heightened commitment to awareness. Writing allows me to sort through the confusion of daily life and focus on those meaningful moments that captivate me. It encourages me to be more reflective and to better understand my place in the world. My appetite for exploring my new home and to absorb the radiance of her people is satiated.
Nearly every day I go for long walks, my camera at the ready, knowing that every moment I catch on camera is already ordained. My job is simply to show up and preserve the speck of time offered me. On the occasions where I catch a particularly significant pose, or witness an unfolding story, I am doubly satisfied, for I am focused completely in the moment while in the service of my community.
This stately city of Cuenca has for many years encouraged a chorus of folks to bring their dreams. Many discover that there is a means to realize those dreams in ways that promote artistic achievement and social enrichment. Those harboring their dreams are encouraged to join in and take up the torch of community engagement, where together we will traverse the dark and dangerous terrain that scars the landscape.
I am working to do my share by holding steadfast to the task of being mindful even as we twist in the throes of an angry planet. I do this with the same devotion as my commitment to shine light on peace, love and understanding through my writing.
Allow me to add here that for those who prefer to read of pain and suffering; I assure you there is plenty of material to read every single day, just not from me. But, you need not be worried and resentful. Your world view will remain intact and be reinforced daily.
Writing about sunlight does not diminish darkness.
It would be a grim banquet indeed, if there was no place at the table for those who cultivate light to shine on the countless joys that surround us every day.