Friday, January 11, 2013

Breath

It's a frosty clear winter morning here in the great Northwest...the kind of morning
that really separates those native to Seattle and those from all points elsewhere.  The natives, while uncomfortable, are drawn to the elusive sight of the sun like moths to a flame.  Those from sunny points south, not at all impressed by the sunlight, have all but disappeared under the fleece and down filled jackets, shivering like their hairless dogs that share the same attire.  Meanwhile, those of us from places that experience real winter for significant parts of the calendar wander with wistful memories of days past in former lives, remembering fondly the otherwise bite of sub freezing air entering our lungs.  In other words, we are enjoying these days in an auld Lang syne kind of way.  Being from the snow belt of upstate New York, I represent the latter view.
One sign of the cold that I can't get enough of is watching my own breath leave its place of warmth to react quite dramatically in a cloud of manufactured smoke.  I still remember the imagination of my younger days that gave the seemingly cool illusion of smoking way before I was old enough.  Now that I'm beyond old enough, and entirely too cheap to take up smoking, I confess to still appreciating the illusion.  Beyond that bit of ridiculousness though, I am reminded every time I see these wisps that there are real people behind them...literal souls that inhale and exhale.  Individuals trudging through cold mornings each leave their own individuals trails, there for a moment and then gone again, waiting for the next exhale.  When individuals blend into groups, their wisps intertwine like the lives that are represented in them, each breath an individual story waiting to be shared and then offered up to the giver of breath.  These wisps are stories, mixed, mingled, and then disappearing again after a time.
In these moments I am reminded that I am as responsible for my own interaction as I am for my own exhaling.  As my own wisp interacts with another, so does my life...and I am responsible for that, for better or worse.  It reminds me, if I let it, that with the same effort it takes me to exhale, I can influence another for good or for bad.  I can be reminded, if I take the time, that the exhale of another represents the soul of another created in the image of the breath giver.  I can, within the same wisp, represent the sun to a native of this place or the cold and dark to those from points south.  Watching ones breath can be a reminder that there is a story behind each one...and even a brief exchange of words can alter a story long after the wisps disappear.

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