Busy sneaks up and has its way with life, eating time like popcorn. Not-busy comes as a surprise, often an unwelcome surprise.
Saturday there was a howling wind. Throughout the day air velocities averaged in the 40 mph range with gusts as high as 62 mph.
Such winds make doing stuff a little bit difficult, even for cattle. These cows chose to hunker down out of the worst of the breeze and wait it out.
On the upside, while the wind was a bit miserable the air temperature was okay-ish. In the 40's at midday and falling to about the freezing mark by evening.
Occasionally a bit of stinging rain or hard snow fell, but it didn't amount to much.
Many years ago I read a bunch of books written by a fellow named Tony Hillerman. Set in the southwest, Hillerman's work might be described as a modern-ish take on the classic western. He is said to have gotten much of the reality of the Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo peoples right. Not being anything of an expert, I have no idea if this is true or not. I found the novels highly interesting and entertaining. Part of the thematic glue holding the tales together was the notion of living in nature's real world. From this perspective, many of Hillerman's characters appreciated and embraced nature's reality for what it actually is. They took the time and made it a point to appreciate nature's beauty for what it actually is in reality, and to appreciate and cherish their place and existence in the natural world. This spiritual path was sometimes called "the way," or perhaps "the blessing way," and also perhaps "the beauty way." I'm going by memory here, so I could be wrong on the naming of the thing. The point I took from this slice of Hillerman's work is that one always has a choice of where and how to bend one's path through nature's reality, and that nature's beauty can illuminate a proper path through life itself, along the "outer" path we navigate out in the world and the "inner" path we navigate cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually. One who walks this path is said to "go in beauty."
The beauty is always there. It always illuminates the way. Do I always go in beauty? No. Do I often charge off the path and ricochet around in the land of egocentric ugliness? Yes.
Over time though, with God's strength and grace providing the power, I spend more and more time on the lighted path. Even in very hard times. Especially, I suppose, in very hard times. Leaving my desires aside, all is right with the world when I choose to go in beauty.
I can't even begin to describe how beautiful is the morning. It's cold and crisp and clear as a bell. The east is beginning to glow with dawn and a waning crescent moon floats three-quarters of the way to zenith as it roams along its ancient sky path. I stride out to fire up the pickup and I'm mobbed by a pack of two dogs who are filled with zest and velocity and a vector aimed squarely at my knees. Our commingled exhalations fill the still air with clouds of vapor. The cold is stinging on my bare arms, yet it's a good sting. An alive sting. Minutes ago I groaned about rolling out of bed. In this magical, beautiful morning I look forward to the day with anticipation and a genuine level of delight. There's a tingling, savage joy bubbling inside. I will not yield, nor will I fight on the ground of my enemy's choosing. I chart my course and take my path and God is with me as I go in beauty.
The four year old tells me about a computer game he watches his big brother and cousin play. It's something very important to him, and he works very hard at trying to make concepts and observations and feelings and discovery come out properly in words. It's a monumental struggle. He's four, and he doesn't know all the words. He probably hasn't realized that the proper words often don't exist. It's frustrating for him. He's filled with all this wonder and delight and learning and growing, and he wants to share it. He wants me to feel what he feels and understand why it's so important. I struggle too. I know nothing of computer games, so most of the concepts are completely opaque to me. Does that matter? Perhaps only a little bit. My job is to listen and try to understand. To witness and appreciate the struggle, to know it for what it is, which is livin'. To share in the livin' of life. To participate in the magic of livin'.
The two year old pulls a folded piece of paper from my shirt pocket and opens it like a miniature book. She begins to read to me. As I listen, I realize that she is describing a rule set. "It's okay," she recites, "to eat candy in bed. But... not if you messin' around."
"Ah," I say, "if you're being good it's okay to eat candy in bed, but if you're being bad it's not."
She looks at me with enormous blue eyes, filled with all the solemnity there is in the world.
The eleven year old is spare and economical with his words. He is deeply hurt and there is no magic balm to ease the pain. His shields are almost always up, and I know why. When the shields come down a bit the most important thing I can do is listen and try to hear without preconception or judgement.
Socrates is said to have opined that the unexamined life is not worth living. I agree with that.
Perhaps unsurprisingly I am working hard to examine this thing called unconditional love. Loving unconditionally is not something I ever experienced before. I was always far too selfish and far too guarded. When it came to me -- when I suddenly found myself loving unconditionally -- it was the most astonishing thing ever to happen to me, the most important and wonderful thing I've ever experienced. In a very real sense it was, I believe, the moment when I actually became a human being.
I don't understand this thing. Like the children, I find that there are no words which come close to fitting the concept. I feel like I should be able to properly describe the thing. but at the same time and more importantly I understand that describing it is unimportant. The important thing is to live it, experience it, give it.
I'll always wonder how it is that the ability to love came to me, and curiously, why it came when it came. I will never know.
It's okay that I will never know. The knowing isn't important. Loving is important.
The little ones and I played outside. It was not quite cold and the sun felt quite good, even quite warm. Where the sun doesn't touch there is still snow on the ground.
At times the struggle looks to be much too big. It is. But it's what we've got. And it's not all we've got.
Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.