May:  some notes

by Jeff Oaks

The work of the Spring Term is over. I can more or less sleep in, although now, without the handy excuse of classes and administrative work, I have no reason not to be going back to the gym, eating well, getting enough sleep. I have an immense freedom in terms of time right now, just at the moment when I have to start restraining/retraining myself to be healthy.  The goal is be balanced, of course, but I’ve resigned to that balance being drawn out over the long term, over the course of my life. “You do your best” is how my mother phrased it. 

The air is warm, the sunlight is bright, the sky blue and full of hope. Young philosophers are lecturing to each other about Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and the meanings of life and philosophy in my favorite coffeehouse. Their voices wrestle with each other for mastery; it’s a friendly competition. When I pick the dog up from camp, we’ll go on a long walk in the woods or along the river where I expect flocks of joggers, dressed in Spandex the color of jungle parakeets, will pass by, chirping encouragingly to one another. A comforting silence will reassert itself after. Until the next herd tramples by, silent, ear-budded, and stern-faced this time.

It’s now that I think the number of new neighbors will become clear. I’ve seen a bunch of the new people already, with their new dogs, at the dogrun and the off-leash area. They’ll bring in new stories, new money, new ideas, habits they learned from living elsewhere. They’re the people who laugh about the way Pittsburghers use chairs to keep street spaces. They can’t get over how beautiful Pittsburgh is. 

I’ve been here for so long now, since 1987, when I came as a nervous graduate student, that I have developed some native habits, including a sense of ownership over some things I don’t really own. I get mad when MY parking spot on the street gets taken away by a newcomers’ car. I wonder who these people think they are crowding the sidewalks at night, yelling at night coming home from the bars. 

Then the lush blossoming of Spring takes my breath away, wakes me up.