There is a spot on my running route where I lose sight of the city. I am surrounded by the lake, blue, blue, so blue I can taste it. This must be what it is like to be a fish: the sweet tang of water, and infinity.
Then I make the turn, and the city rushes back, rising up with its face to the sky. I have seen this hundreds of times. The lake, the turn, the city. But it fills my heart up every time. I must make a bowl of my hands to carry the overflow.
It feels like love but it isn't specific enough to be love. It isn't focused. It encompasses the whole city and everyone in it, all the people that live here or will live here or have ever lived here. But it is bigger even then that, too. It is every wave of the lake against the beach, every El train rattling through the space between buildings, every light in every window and every window that is dark.
But that's wrong, too. It isn't so focused as waves and trains and lights and windows. It's something else. I can't hold onto it once I start to think about it. It slips from my hands.
It's joy so strong that it almost doubles back into sorrow, but not quite. Joy that's too aware that joy cannot last. It's the joy of being alive, of the act of life, of the incredible impossibility that life exits at all, inside and outside of my arms and legs and beating heart. We built this city and burned it and built it again. We kill each other here, we raise each other, we work and we're tired and we hold onto whatever bright things we can get our hands on. We do all the things that people do everywhere else but we do it on the edge of a lake whose water we stole.
They talk about us like the city has a gun to its head, but I turn the corner and the buildings rise up and up and my heart spills into my hands.
It is this: I am grateful. I am so grateful I can barely stand it.