Today I am feeling extraordinarily grateful for clean fresh air. As someone who is blessed to live in the mountains, I have been noticing lately how exquisite the air is here. I can take deep grateful breaths and know that this air is good for me.
Such has not always been the case. For most of my life I lived on the East coast. I remember a former boss/friend telling me that when he and his wife flew back to Pennsylvania from their vacation home in Oregon, they could see the hazy pall hanging over the airport in Philadelphia. He said the difference in the quality of the air was profound, almost palpable.
I myself remember a school trip to New York City when I was in fifth grade. I distinctly remember riding on the bus down some Manhattan avenue and being able to see the air in front of us. It was a yellowish gray. I was rather astounded. As this was new to me, I didn’t quite know enough to be outraged. I think I thought this was part of growing up – experiencing something that everyone else knew about but me.
I also remember my first post-college apartment. It was a little studio near a main highway. Often I would take long walks on the backroads through the countryside and I would love every minute. But one time I decided to get some exercise and save gas and the environment by walking down the highway to a store about a mile or so away. It was the most unpleasant walk of my life. I was breathing fumes and exhaust the entire way. Never again.
In recent years, when I was living in or visiting my suburban Pennsylvania hometown, I would often drive with the windows down because I always prefer the breeze of fresh air whenever possible. But, inevitably, a bus or truck or car would pass with some malodorous fumes – and sometimes even visible exhaust, coming from the tailpipe. I would literally hold my breath as I rolled up the windows. I would try, for a few minutes, to exhale only – trying to get rid of whatever poisons I had unwillingly breathed in.
We obviously need to breathe in order to live. And deep breathing has been shown to be particularly good for us in terms of reducing stress, improving the cardiovascular system, etc. If you are blessed to live somewhere with a lot of trees and grass, if you are blessed to live in the mountains or somewhere away from heavy traffic and industrial pollution, please remember to be grateful for the air that you breathe. It is a most precious gift.
My former partner used to lead ceremonies in which he would publicly acknowledge whomever there was the eldest. He would say, “Thank you. Thank you for breathing the most breaths.” I loved that. I loved that we would honor the elders. I loved the way Jayson would express gratitude for them having lived the longest, taken the most breaths.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for the air that we breathe. Thank you for fresh air. Thank you for our lungs. Thank you for breath. Thank you for life.