Since my heart attack, I have tried to live by the day, for the day. I don’t always succeed in doing so, and more often than not, fail. Not surprisingly, birthdays as a special occasion to celebrate have become less meaningful, unless it is the year of zeros and fives. I turned 55 last week — the number that represents Cesium (caesium) which, as per Wikipedia’s definition, is a “soft, silvery-golden alkali metal with a melting point of 28.5 °C (83.3 °F), which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at or near room temperature.” Its symbol is Cs. It is usually associated with some products that need radioactivity.

The funny thing is that many of the metal’s properties, many quite misanthropic, are an opt reflection of my state of mind in our post-pandemic reality. And perhaps that’s why few very dear friends collectively surprised me with a series of experiences that involved hiking, eating better, disconnecting from the Internet (mostly), and of course, making photographs in an amazing location. 

The gift was their company, but in reality, they wanted me to reset, rejuvenate and re-energize. This sojourn was a perfect way to break my pandemic-inspired predisposition for solitude and contemplation. Being out in the sun, relearning the joys of my camera, journaling late at night under the canopy of stars, and reading was therapeutic. It made me realize that often I was so busy with the business of life that I forgot the life itself. 

As I walked through the silent slot canyons, surrounded by Navajo sandstone, caressed into curves by gushing waters and rushing winds, it was a reminder of my insignificance. Look closer, and you start to see layers in the rock that represent thousands of years. Time, on a geological scale, is very different from what we think of as time. It is a good reminder that our individual lives don’t merit even a spec, yet we are so obsessed with our ego, our presence on the planet, and whatever we deem important around us. 

W. Somerset Maugham once noted: “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.” I don’t intend to be foolish enough not to be delighted by whatever life brings me – one way or the other. 

Somewhere, October 3, 2021