Bluer than blue.
When teaching Mindfulness, the exercise of allowing your mind to become more aware of the moment, your senses become raw. Sounds, tastes, even your thoughts sharpen to a fine point you rarely experience without practice. Everything is so close, but simultaneously as far away as the planet Jupiter.
To me, the sky above was never as pure blue or my senses so isolated as on the afternoon of September 11th, 2001.
No matter how many years pass, the single most powerful memory – one I can call up as easily as reaching for the car keys in my pants pocket – is the color of the afternoon sky. Blue. Bright blue. Intoxicating blue.
Fifteen years is a long time. Time enough for images to fade, for emotions to soften their edges, and for memories to gracefully cloud around the edges.
After a gut-wrenching day of planes crashing into skyscrapers, buildings crashing to the ground, and experiencing a newfound and painful vulnerability, I stepped outside onto the street near our home. I felt as if my ears wear ringing, only they weren’t. My head, however, was suffering from a bell-ringing of unimaginable horror.
With my family safely inside, I tried to quiet my mind, to push the images of death away – even if only for a moment. I needed a breath of normalcy, a place where I could be while not thinking.
Streets were eerily quiet at 4 pm in the afternoon. The world, at least the one I lived in, meekly shut down as the awareness of our new reality ebbed to the surface.
Standing there, my feet on the ground, I found myself looking to the sky. Maybe I was looking for answers. Maybe I was looking for a sign. A giant blue canvas, instead, filled my eyes.
Planes were grounded, leaving the skies empty for nature to paint with clouds and birds. Only on this day, even Mother Nature put both on hold. The blue pouring into my eyes were bluer than blue.
Life is different when your senses are operating on overdrive. Probably awaking our ‘fight of flight’ instinct buried in our lizard brain, I’m sure most of experienced something similar – how could you not? When you are threatened, nature takes the steering wheel. No more autopilot, no more casually going through the emotions.
I can’t recall the temperature or whether recently fallen leaves blew between my standing feet. But I do remember the color of the sky and the uneasy emotional feeling as if standing naked and alone in the middle of a large empty space.
The blue kept calling to me, as if inviting me to listen, to let the sky wrap itself around me. I did. Tears came out. Emotions, buried inside for hours – ones intentionally suppressed as I tried to make sense out of the new reality around me – burst to the surface. And as they did, the bluer than blue faded from my sight as tears filled my eyes.