I see trees

 

Sometime in the near future NASA is going to reveal that they have found the center of the Universe.

A lot of people are going to be crushed to find that it’s not them.

I am growing so incredibly frustrated with the materialistic, self-centered, selfie society we are becoming.
Rampant consumerism has a firm choke hold on the throat of moderation.
Savings have dwindled, debts have soared, and landfills are heaping with the scraps of our throwaway mentality.
Self-obsession and promotion has become the new normal. We’d rather film a person beating someone up than stop to help them.
We are becoming too power obsessed, fighting for our little scraps and destroying everything in our path in the process.

I fear that we are losing our humanity.

 While I always tried to avoid participating in such a life, I was forced to live along side it. Fortunately, in the downsizing of my existence I was finally able to walk away from it completely. Once free from the pursuit of a larger everything I have embraced normalcy. I have welcomed my average. I celebrate and surround myself with the regular. And I have never been happier.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from The Great Outdoors, starring John Candy and Dan Aykroyd. They are in Canada on vacation, sitting on a deck overlooking a lake. Dan Aykroyd, a materialistic businessman, goes off on a tirade about what he sees when he looks out over the water. He describes a vision of future Industrialization, urban sprawl, forestry, and medical waste dumps. John Candy’scharacter is a simple man, and when asked what he sees, replies
“I just see trees.”
He is then summarily berated for being short-sighted and simple. Sorry to say, but that’s me, I just see trees.

In order to appreciate the world we have to take our eyes off of the screens and look up and around. We need to appreciate the power and beauty of nature. The beauty is everywhere, the power rearing its mighty head unpredictably. Both manifest in subtle sights and awe-inspiring displays. The flight of the bird, starlit nights and sunsets, the reflection of foliage on the still waters of a pond on a late fall afternoon. Such sights fill me with wonder and give me cause me to question my place in the world and to seek a spiritual connection to the Universe.

The looming mountaintop, the endless horizon seen from the beach, the mighty Oak, the rushing river, wind tearing through trees, waves crashing and receding with a massive riptide serve another purpose entirely. They remind me of how small I really am in the grand scheme of things. Instead of being intimidated, I embrace it.

I recognize my relative size and overall significance in comparison to the Universe. I know my place. No man is a match for the mighty tide, despite his wealth, power and amount of Instagram followers. Man is only a force in, not of, Nature when he embraces his fellow man. But instead of coming together as an advanced society we have drifted apart and we are regressing. Our humanity is whatmakes us great, the increasing lack of it is destroying us.

Thisis a call for humility,
A wake-up call to recognize and embrace our smallness.
A damper of ego and hubris.
For less stuff andmore quality.

To just see Trees…

The Lake Walk, cont’d…a Mike Valentine tale

this is a continuation of yesterday’s post. You can catch the first installment here.
He stood, put his hands on his aching sides, looked around and realized he was almost halfway around the lake. His legs were starting to cramp. Losing motivation, but aware that it’s the same distance back as it is to continue, he started to walk again. His mind was still racing but he furiously tried to control it.

He thought of his late father and his trademark line, Everything will work out, it always does. The mantra rang through his head.

I wish you were here to talk to right now, Dad. I could use some of that cheerful optimism of yours that I once scoffed at, he mused as he trudged forward. His Dad always seemed to have it together. Sure, he sometimes fought with his mother. But he loved her unconditionally. He had money problems, but got through it. He hated his job, but he never acted like I am right now. I’m a hot mess. I can’t stand my wife, I’m on the brink of foreclosure and my boss is a fucking psycho that I love one minute and hate the next. How would Dad handle all of this?

Mike Valentine was well-known to friends, family, and business associates for his resilience and cheerful demeanor. It was a source of pride to him that this applied to more than just his public, outside persona. He was also committed to maintaining a positive frame of mind even when alone and talking to himself, which today he was doing quite a bit of. What people didn’t realize is that it required a lot of his energy to maintain that reputation. There are limits to what any man can take, as he was fond of thinking. Sometimes, when the walls felt like they were closing in, he had to remind himself to be positive and at this moment he did just that. Snap out of it! he reprimanded himself, you’re not going to fix anything in this state of mind. With the equivalent of a snap of a finger, he let his day wash off of him and he just walked. To keep his mind empty and focused he walked while looking down at the ground and concentrated on playing “don’t step on a crack”, a game from his childhood, not stepping on a crack in the sidewalk. This amused him for a while and it wasn’t long before noticing that he was approaching the final stretch where his car sat waiting for him.

When Mike reached the clearing to the parking lot he saw that his car was the only one in the lot. He found it oddly comforting, it went great with his whole I want the world to leave me alone mood he was in. Then, as he got closer, he saw a lone figure in the parking lot very close to his car.  It was either a kid or a small adult. Great, I’m probably getting robbed or vandalized. He began to walk faster. This day is somehow getting worse. His legs protested but he pushed on.

He felt the phone in his back pocket vibrating. He continued focusing on walking as fast as he could. He was tempted not to even look to see who was calling. It was most likely his wife doing the nightly “where are you” call. God, he hated that call. Often, he contemplated answering and saying “as far away from you as possible!” and hanging up but he knew that wouldn’t end well. Then again, it could be one of his kids calling and he grabbed for the phone. Too late, he had missed the call, but it was indeed the wife. Here comes the text, he thought. 2 seconds later it came through.
Where are U?

Mike chuckled to himself despite his annoyance. He called that one. He didn’t respond. He had a walk to finish and possibly a kid to beat up.

As he got closer to his car he could see that it was a boy, maybe 8 years old standing near his car. He must have seen Mike approaching yet he made no move to retreat or even acknowledge his approach for that matter. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck standing up, something seemed off about this kid.

“Hey kid”, he called out when he was less than 20 feet away, “can I help you?”
The boy was gazing intently at the sky. Without looking down or away he replied, “no Mike, I’m just fine thank you.”

to be continued…

My Walden

Many of our greatest American poets and writers penned their best work while admiring a body of water. Robert Frost was inspired by hiking the woods in both winter and summer and waxed poetic about the beauty of the seasons in New England. Henry David Thoreau was inspired by the serenity of Walden Pond. Reading Walden as a young man I could relate to the notion of hiking through thick woods, to come upon an opening in the thicket and stumble upon an oasis. A body of water, glimmering in the summer sun, or the frozen surface glistening in the sparse hours of daylight while in the throes of winter. They both convey such a calming image that inevitably leads to a moment of reflection and wonder. I have 2 bodies of water that invoke the spirits of Frost and Thoreau. One is Ossipee Lake, which I am not in sight of year round. The other is my beloved duck pond.

The duck pond is the single one thing that makes the lot we live on graduate from great to awesome. It captivated my mom and dad when they bought it in the 80’s. The lot is two acres but is surrounded by wetlands which mean that despite not owning it, we have the luxury of enjoying another three acres with the security that it can’t be built on. Our view is ours to keep.

The house was clearly constructed with a view of the pond in mind. The main entrance, two sliding glass doors, and many windows all face it. I find myself drawn to the pond year round. Many mornings I have had coffee on the deck and spotted a deer or two that ventured to the water line for a drink. It teems with birds of all kinds, mostly Canadian Geese, and Mallards but occasionally the great Heron with the six-foot wingspan will swoop in like a Concorde Jet landing at a Municipal Airport. I love the birds, all of them. It pleases me to the core to see the small V-shaped ripple in water as a solitary duck makes its way across the pond.

At night, the pond shifts gears from quiet oasis to a bustling ecosystem as frogs loudly make their presence known, crickets (Cicadas?) create a cacophonous symphony, and the industrious beavers work tirelessly at their latest monument. It is deafening in early spring but like everything else, you get used to it.

With the late Spring in New England this year, I have looked eagerly to the pond each morning for signs of my favorite season. The pond tells all, year round. In the fall, the decreasing bird population signals the approach of winter. In the early winter, the encroachment of ice indicates the arrival of winter. In the spring, I monitor daily the receding of the ice and the return of my beloved birds. This year, the pond didn’t give me what I wanted, despite my constant pleading. By the middle of April, it was still in the throes of winter. And then, I think this week, Spring suddenly showed up. The ice is gone, my birds are back and last night the Crickets were deafening, much to the pleasure of my ears. Spring is actually here, I saw both a Wasp and a Tick this morning while walking the dog.

This afternoon, I had a coffee on the deck and admired my pond. My ducks are there, the sun reflected on the ripples suddenly brought on by a light but satisfying afternoon breeze. I have not been outside much lately. My sickness has made me tired, weak and cold. On days that I used to wake early and race outside, I have found myself sleeping late and spending my waking hours under a warm blanket. As I sipped my coffee, reflecting on my life recently, it occurred to me that my beloved pond can serve as a powerful metaphor for my life.

The seasons are fundamentally about change. In New England, we always have four seasons (sometimes in one week) and we can count on it. Change is inevitable. I see it coming by studying my pond. This Spring, my pond shed its blanket of ice and welcomed back all of the creatures that depend upon it. It embraced the change and is now doing what it is supposed to. Today, I shed my actual blanket for the first time and took a step, albeit a small one, towards shaking off the cold, grey winter that has occupied my soul for months. Like my duck pond, I let the sun hit me and I eagerly absorbed it, seeking enough light to allow it to warm me, reflect off of me and have enough in the tank to shine it for those that depend and count on me. I need to welcome back the desire to go on as if the urgency of a coming fall and winter was fast approaching. It is indeed that urgent.

Today, like Frost and Thoreau, I have found inspiration. I don’t know if they ever sat on the edge of their beloved oasis’s with a heart as heavy as I have of late but I can see how it inspired them to put it to paper for others to read and enjoy. It has certainly inspired me to do so, and I hope someone will enjoy reading this. It may be just a blog, but it could also be the first entry in a great epiphany in which a lost soul gets his mojo back.

Imagine that, all this about a bunch of ducks.