Thus slightly drunk and wandering aimlessly about the shrubbery, watch the play of light upon the leaves, the surface of the water in the stream disturbed by the rocks at the bottom, the anger of disturbed ducks, the shuffle of a chipmunk. Find a patch of sunlight with a view of the hillside, the perch upon the root of a tree distant enough from other revelers to be able to observe their unconvincing games of croquet and frisbee while far enough from sight so as to remain undisturbed.
Sitting quietly, happily filled with pastries and alcohol, the senses attuned to each gesture of the breeze, the grains of dirt on the ground, the sharpness of each blade of grass. The solitary peacefulness of watching a society while no longer expecting to participate within it: liberation from the expectations of joviality and small talk and physical games of skill, the scene turned into a Renaissance oil painting or a film, viewed through a frame, intangible.
Within this solitude is contentment, the knowledge that the pleasures of the others offer a membership of a cordial society, but the bite of separation from these friends providing a prism against which the identity of the self can relax, no longer forced to perform the assigned role.
Calm is never so calm, so quiet, as when in contrast to an immediate experience of music, of conversation, of joshing and of games; the noise of the stream and the curses of the ducks offering a different discourse on the play of the afternoon sun.
The ducks are freed from the constraints of time as we experience it. They do follow the patterns of migration, of eggs and rearing of young, of forming alliances and dodging common enemies. Those ducks which do not migrate exchange the weary journey, the exhaustion of traveling, for the weary coldness of winter, the exhaustion of foraging desperately for food. Ducks are known to be fickle and faithless; cruel tormentors to outsiders; easy prey to predators. But the orderly disorder of ducklings on a stream, mama duck quacking continuously as the young reply in a pattern of call and response, the game of Marco Polo; the desperate calling of a mother duck who has misplaced one of her ducklings. The sorrow and pain of the unanswered, repeated call to the young.
The sun shifts slightly, moving beyond the reach of the tree, shadowing the grove and cooling the air. The sounds of the party begin to dissipate, a clutter of plates left behind as the other retire to nap before the dinner hour. How quickly does the day fall away, the sharpness of the experience of each individual moment blurring into a sense of the weight of responsibility of time, the knowledge that following dinner will come evening, witching hours always too short and then forced into tomorrow, the resumption of duties and deadlines and expectations, the call of grown-up responsibilities which must be answered.
As the air chills and no longer welcomes the leisure of inattentive observation, the clock chimes, the freedom from timelessness returned for the needs of the schedule, of duties unavoidable. The subdued conversation of a dinner which is superfluous following the feast of the day, but partaking in the meal is the outward acknowledgment of the return of the schedule, the beckoning of the clock.
Return. Return. Return. Return. Return. Return. Return.
The dinner of half-heard conversations, of distracted digestion, as others struggle to hold on to their holiday into the night, desperately forcing cheerfulness and ever stronger drinks to propel a sense of freedom into a situation which is too quickly returning to normalcy. The flushed face, the altering inflections of the voice, the ever more outrageous hand gestures, the punch lines to jokes, all constructing a wall of sand against the inevitable force of time, of tomorrow, which has arrived.
After the rush of an irrepressible dawn and a breakfast which reeks of the mundane, unforgiving toil forgets the joy of yesterday, the freedom of the frisbee, the weight of to be done crushing the memory of all that was allowed to fall to the wayside in the glow of an afternoon.
1040 INSTRUCTIONS / Including Instructions for Schedules A, B, C, D, E, F, J, and SE