Friday, October 19, 2012

Optimism Vs. Engagement

Just when I think I know something about Life, a deeper truth comes along and sets me to reeling.

In my last post, I presented all of the wonderful signs of the season as evidence that there are many more great things to look forward to as Time moves along in its great cycle. The very next day, as we got on our bike to ride to school, my daughter, F, enthused:

"I can't wait until today!"

I think this is the Zen Stick that Jane writes about from time to time.

I turned to F, as best as I could from my bike saddle, and started to correct her. "But it's already today...." But she was right. Optimism for the future is a good thing, but how much better is it to be 100% engaged in the here-and-now?

That girl never ceases to amaze me. She has this inner light that refuses to be ignored, that touches everyone she comes into contact with. I try to have a positive impact on the world around me, but I still have a lot to learn. I'm reminded of these lyrics:

I had a match, but she had a lighter.
I had a flame, but she had a fire.
I was bright, but she was much brighter.
I was high, but she was the sky.
 -- Cake: Mexico

I am privileged to be surrounded by lots of people that are so incredibly smart, talented, bold, enthusiastic, caring... But there was a time when I would never have guessed that a six-year-old would be the most inspiring person I've ever met.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Firsts of the Fall

The first Saturday morning bike ride in sub-40° temperatures and overcast skies. Convincing yourself that as long as you make it out the door, it counts as a workout. Bundled up in at least two layers from head to toe, telling yourself that it's not really that cold. You just have to acclimate to the cooler weather. Getting home 30 miles later with thoroughly frozen hands that thaw to burning pinpricks. A well-deserved cup of tea and a hot shower.

The first pile of leaves raked up from the ash tree that has gone from green to golden seemingly overnight. The kids jumping in, heaping the leaves around themselves; tossing handfulls up in the air and laughing as the leaves shower back down, sticking to sweaters and hair. Thinking maybe you should be trying to capture it all on video, but unwilling to tear yourself away from just being in this moment.

The first hike with snowflakes drifting down at the trail head. A few miles of distance and one or two thousand feet of elevation later, the snow is knee-deep in places. Facing into the wind, you half-wish for goggles and a balaclava. But the slight stinging of the driving snow is just the mountains' way of teasing you, telling you that you're always welcome to come visit as long as you're willing to accept their house rules.

Times of change are a reminder of the richness of experience that awaits us. After a summer full of sunshine, shade trees, and summits, it wouldn't do to forget or take for granted that we're surrounded by wonders that are subject to the slow rhythms of time. The turning of seasons reminds us not to mourn the days that have passed, but to celebrate days yet to come.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review (and gift): Knocking 'Round the Rockies

I recently finished reading a great little book: Knocking 'Round the Rockies by Ernest Ingersoll. It is the account of the author's work in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming with the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories in 1874 and 1875.

In recounting his experiences and adventures, Ingersoll waxes poetic, scientific, historic, comic with an engaging rapidity. There are anecdotes of Indian battles and trouble with mules; histories of Denver and other towns he visited; details of the operation and economics of the 19th-century mining industry; and many interesting social and linguistic observations may be made in the reading.

Here are a few of my favorite passages:

There is no possible desolation greater than these lofty peaks show - fastnesses where winter is supreme and chaos retains a foothold upon the earth - fragments of a primeval and Arctic world dotting the fair expanse of tempered nature below.

 "That reminds me," laughed Mr. Wilson, "of a funny thing that happened once in Nevada. Coming back from a mountain one day, we surprised a bear and shot at him, but missed him, and he ran off very lively. We followed along and chased him right through camp. There were only a Mexican and the cook there, and they, seeing the bear run by, started after - the Mexican on the horse with an old army pistol, and the cook with nothing but his rolling-pin. The bear got away, but what that fellow proposed to do with the rolling-pin was more than he or I could tell."

 I can no more express with leaden types the ineffable, intangible ghost and grace of such an experience than I can weigh out to you the ozone that empurples the dust raised by the play of the antelopes in yonder amethyst valley. Moses need have chosen no particular mountain whereupon to receive his inspiration. The divine Heaven approaches very near all of these peaks.

Not only do I recommend this book, but I have the rare chance to give it to all of you. Kind of. It's available for free via Google Books! So curl up by the campfire with a pipe and your laptop or tablet and enjoy this glimpse of the Rocky Mountains as they were some 138 years ago.