As I learn more
Just how little
As I learn more
Just how little
They say that a gallon of milk costs $15 US in Alaska.
People decry the cost of living so far north.
Inuits lived here for 25,000 years without ever seeing a dairy cow.
Use your head for something more than a hat rack.
A reply to a young person’s post, looking ahead at their life. The idea is postulated that “age is in one’s mind”, and drew a reply including the statement “Age is simply not a significant number.”
Age is, indeed, a significant number.
It would be folly to deny this.
Can a newborn walk?
Can the eldest elder run like a child?
We must recognize and enjoy each year that comes to us. We must celebrate our energy and wonder and unbounded future of our youths.
We must stop and smell each and every rose during those wonder-filled years if one is blessed with children. Drink in every moment, tuck these memories into your heart.
We must be willing to relish the maturity of our age. To have a wondrous well of experiences and memories that add hue and tone to our every living moment.
To cherish those days remaining, knowing we are closer to the end of the trail than the beginning.
Age is a name for each book and chapter of your life. “Me, age 10”, “I go to School”, “Learning to Drive a Car”, “College Days”, “Time In Service”, “Marriage”, “My Children”, “Saying Goodbye to Mom”, “Life Filled with Wonder”, “Joy and Tears”, “Me, age 40”, “Me, age 50”.
Each volume is neatly stacked in the library of your mind.
What a fine and joyous thing it is to peruse my library.
To carefully select a volume, hold it in my hands, linger over the stories and illustrations.
One day, I shall fall off to sleep, reading…
Who’s to say denial and delusion are anything but good for you?
Dreams, fantasy, fiction, acting, pretend, hope, “all the world but a stage”.
Consider the alternatives.
Of which course to follow,
Really, who is the fool?
By some, the event may have been called
And love spilled out.
It flows as it never has.
“Getting back to the roots” of Armchair Zen, so to speak. This post was originally published in May, 2011.The mighty oak from the tiny acorn grows.
This old adage seems to reflect a wonder and reverence for this amazing feat.
I love trees, I really do. I could easily personify them, impune them with human attributes, worship them as spirits. Something about a tree, standing firm and tall in the same place, day in, day out, year ’round…it brings a sense of stability, longevity, solidity, groundedness.
I like to subscribe to what I call Tree Philosophy, or Tree Attitude. So many things in our lives appear to be a conspiracy of circumstances, the times we live in, where we live, the way we live, with whom we live. Choices we made back in…when? Things we shoulda woulda or coulda done.
My grandfather always told me “Take shoulda, woulda and coulda in one hand, and a nickel in the other, and see which one will buy you a donut.”
Trees waste no time on such worries. A little tree seed plants its first tendrils into the soil—and is committed! From day one, that tree is going to live or die, stand or fall, right on that very same spot.
I like to imagine trees thinking about that. “I’m going to be the best tree I can right here, where I am, working with what I have.”
This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from President Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” That is, after all, a description of our entire lives, really, isn’t it? We are where we are, there’s no denying that. We must work with what we have, be it employment, a dwelling, our people, money, transportation, brain power, energy or spirit. And doing the best we can within these parameters is all we can do.
For philosophers such as President Roosevelt and myself, this means we don’t throw in the towel just because the odds are stacked against us, the task is overwhelming, or we’re short on assets, even if tasked with great challenges or the seemingly impossible. It also means recognizing that there are limits to what we can do, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for being unable to do more.
I imagine a tree’s life is similar, but to the greatest extent. Tree doesn’t agonize over location. Perhaps prospects for success might be better elsewhere. Perhaps the climate is something humans would want to escape. Perhaps the very home of Tree is in a precarious place, on the side of a cliff, at the edge of an eroding riverbank, or at the last edge of the tree line, far up a tall mountain. Tree can’t move, but can only hang on and throw all of its efforts into the present.
Neither can Tree do anything about the changes in its life. Perhaps it’s struck by lightning, maybe loses a limb or suffers damage to its trunk. Perhaps humans come along and saw pieces off. Maybe its roots are immersed “knee-deep” in water during a flood season, or a drought season makes survival difficult.
If Tree is an evergreen, it will keep it’s needles as it goes into a dormant season. Granted, I have wished more than once that I could have a dormant season for myself, to rest and recuperate from the rigors of my own seasons, storms, lightning, chain saws, floods and blizzards. If Tree is deciduous, it will awaken, depending where Tree lives, sometime between February and May. As it stretches its limbs to the sky, it gets down to the business at hand: budding, developing and flowering. Sounds a bit like our lives again, doesn’t it? For its season, however long it may be (and without groaning that it is either too short or too long) Tree will produce thousands of leaves, each one a near-perfect copy of the others. For pines, tens of thousands, maybe millions of needles. Year one, year 50, year 200, Tree goes right on doing what it is born to do, producing those leaves or needles, growing when the conditions are right, and resting when it is necessary.
Tree will keep up the good fight, no matter what, and will try until defeat and death. As it is with all living things (and, in fact all things in the universe on its grand scale), eventually there is an end. I like to imagine Tree retiring. “I’m going to lay down, right here, next to the rest of you.” At that time, Tree is okay with this end, whether it is after 5 years or 500. Call it destiny, call it nature, call it the randomness of the universe, the circle of all things.
Saplings can be heard all around “Good job, Tree, and thank you for your silent service. You have been a fine example of patience and perseverance. A great neighbor in our community, shading the tender shoots and plants at your base, welcoming, with open limbs, the wildlife; squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, wasps, and anything else that came to you seeking refuge, a home, safety, security, something meaningful and solid that we can know and understand and rely on.”
Even after death, Tree remains an influence. Flora and fauna of certain types will flourish thanks to Tree’s legacy. The many generations growing around Tree will look on, seeking and seeing the testimony to its determination, learning and benefitting from the example, and the knowledge that Tree stood by them, and gave selflessly whenever called upon to do so.
I don’t need riches, recognition or immortality. If my life, and its own end, can be to any degree worthy of Tree’s example, I too will be able to lay down in peace, and return to the earth from which I came.
Be at peace.
Rerun: This post was originally published in 2011. – Paz
I was reading a thing recently about a crew demolishing a building. Someone asks the foreman how long it would take to knock the building down, and what sort of skills were required by the crew. To sum it up, the guy replies that they should be able to knock the whole thing down within a week, and aside from knowing how to work safely, no special skills were required. The observation concludes that it would take many weeks or months, maybe a year or more, to construct the building, and the construction would require many people with well-developed skills. Masons for foundations, welders for steel, electricians & plumbers, painters & roofers, and perhaps consultants for interior design.
In short, it takes longer and requires more skills to build something up than to tear it down.
This is also true of people, and the words we use with one another.
Like the unskilled demolition crew, anyone can speak words of criticism. Complaints, judgement, even derision. These words are pretty easy to come by in the human brain, especially when motivated by aggravation, frustration or anger.
By contrast, it requires greater effort to hold one’s tongue, keep one’s opinions to one’s self, to avoid getting on the band wagon with others complaining or condemning, and especially to keep hurtful things from spitting out of our mouths in the course of an argument, particularly an angry one.
So too, it requires a different and perhaps greater skill to look for the good in situations, to compliment people on the degree to which they got things right, not criticize them for the degree of wrong.
In the heat of battle or when someone is railing or ranting, the conversational side of the brain will feed you many thoughts that it wants you to speak. Maybe it’s the way you feel, or maybe you want to defend a position, or maybe you want to agree with a condemnation being offered.
The sage will understand the old adage “less said the better”. With concentrated effort, one can express that one understands or at least hears the other’s point of view without agreeing or arguing.
In any situation, look for the positive. With any person, look for the chance to share a kind word, and watch for those verbal grenades your automated-language-based brain tries to toss past your teeth.
We went to see an apartment into which someone had recently moved. The street was not well-to-do, or of the newest part of town. The houses were mostly multi-family rentals, and were generally well-worn. One could not describe the sidewalks or alleys as neat or clean. The apartment was at the top of a steep, narrow, windowless staircase. The windows could have used cleaning, and with some effort one could see above the dormers of the house next door, and catch a sliver of the sky and the city beyond. The kitchen floor was from the last century. It looked, in many places, exactly like what is was: a medium-sized second story apartment in an older house, whose tenants probably never stayed more than a year or two. A few marks showed on the walls and woodwork, where families had probably raised rambunctious children, and the landlord probably repainted only when needed.
When asked, I described it thusly:
“It’s quite spacious, with good-sized rooms. It has a brand new carpet in the living room, and a brand new space heater, like the ones I have in my house. A Big kitchen! The windows are big. Tall, old-fashioned windows that let in the light. On sort of a side street, where the traffic seemed pretty light. And cozy! Probably quite efficient to heat!”
Next time you have a chance to describe something or someone, an apartment or even adversary, put your effort into the use of the skills of “craftsmen of the human spirit”, “masters of language”, developed by being practitioners and tradesmen in the arts of compassion and empathy, and build with the materials of positivity, hope, caring and dignity.
Be at peace,
When you wake in the morning, give thanks for the light.
Give thanks for your strength, for your food, for your life.
If you see nothing to be thankful for,
The fault lies
“Give thanks for the healthy children in your life, and give to those who are not.”
-Marlo Thomas, St.Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital
Today I feel enmeshed with The World.
As if The Earth’s blood flows through my veins.
As if all these living things are part of me, my kin, and I am responsible for their care when in their midst.
It is a wondrous, warm, comforting feeling of belonging, the likes of which I have not known before.
Difficult to put into words.
An overwhelming peace.
Light the World with our
Suffer unto us your