It’s a funny paradox that working on long-term thinking can be a frenzied, over-scheduled thing. Racing from a plane to rental car to highway in California recently, I was determined to get to Muir Woods before they closed.
That is an obviously ridiculous concept, that the woods have a closing time. I’m also sad to report that you now need a reservation to visit this place, and that the lack of cell service there seemed to render us all helpless infants.
Happily, the woods themselves couldn’t care less that the parking rules have changed. One step onto the path and I felt a great release. Ten more steps and I felt a prickle of tears in my eyes, to be amongst beings that had seen so much. And when I found myself alone in the redwood cathedrals, woah. These trees have stood through wartime and peacetime, through storms and sunshine, through human folly and human wisdom.
There is nothing I could ever bring to them that is greater than something they have already survived. The same is true for mountains, for rivers, for plains, for marshes… even for some buildings, and some people.
Hand on a tree, my fury over powerpoint fonts drained away. Feet on the earth, my worry over lost basis points disappeared. Air in my lungs, my deeper questions about purpose and meaning floated free.
All of our work, all of our lives, are ephemeral in the grand scheme of things – and yet if we are alert, and a little bit lucky, some of our endeavor might help those who come after, whether they be humans or foxes or maples.
The parking rules at Muir Woods might be needed at the moment, and I’m glad for the folks who worked on them. But oh! Dear friends! Let’s not confuse the apps with the trees.
When I arrived home, this amazing book had been sent to me by a dear friend. Coincidence? I think not!
Fo a few years now, thanks to the wisdom of Pilar Gerasimo, I’ve been trying to follow a more seasonal model of work: using the winter for deep foundation-building projects, spring for sprouting up new ideas, summer for stretching out and expanding. Fall has been full-on harvest mode, gathering up all that has been tended, sharing it with others, pushing to get a lot done before the quieter winter stretch is upon us.
Yet autumn is a time of planting, too. It’s not for tender seeds that will burst into action, but rather for bigger, more durable elements – the sapling that needs to settle its roots before the ground freezes, the bulbs that need the dark and the cold to properly develop.
This past week, amidst a scurry of fall harvest activity – meetings and powerpoints and spreadsheets, a bushel full of productivity – I was brought up short by a friend asking a simple, sincere, Why? It sent me straight to the grounding of my own life, and helped me to see that even in the midst of this autumn busy-ness, there are roots to be established for the coming years.
Dear friends, there are 66 days until the new decade – 2020, a time for clarity if there ever was one!
What big, durable roots do we want to set in the ground?
Let’s be planting, even as we harvest.
Let’s dig in today.
Dear ones, we can live lives immersed in the world, with hearts carefully shielded – active and unattached. Or we can live whole-hearted lives within smaller circles – loving but limited.
But if we can we live both open-hearted and fully present in the world, woah.
We might get muddy, and our hearts might break. But a muddy, heart broken-open life is likely to be a worthy life.
Let’s get in the room.
Let’s make our engagement prayer.
Before I had even laced up my sneakers on Saturday for a happy turtle-paced jog, Eliud Kipchoge had run an entire marathon in less than two hours. Afterward, he noted, “Together, when we run, we can make this world a beautiful world.”
The achievement is clearly stunning, and Kipchoge is rightly heralded as the hero of the tale. If you look at the image as he crosses the finish line, though, what is striking is the huge group of teammates springing along behind him, cheering and waving. Forty-one pacers took turns surrounding Kipchoge through the race, along with a host of coaches and planners and spectators.
Our narratives easily veer towards the heroic, and it’s inspiring when they do. But look around the heroes, and there’s always a huge supporting team. The rows of engineers at Mission Control, the staffers on the campaign bus, the orchestra members behind the soloist… world-class on their own merits, yet not the headliners.
It’s easy to want to be a hero, and it’s also easy to want to be a modest contributor. But to give your all, to be one of the greatest on the planet in your chosen endeavor, and to still be willing to be in a supporting role… that is tougher. It is the difference between glory and honor.
Dear ones, this is the question. Regardless of glory, what is worthy of our honor?
Anything may be possible.
Together we can make this world a beautiful world.
I attended a glorious wedding this weekend in a glorious location, where the priest quoted The Princess Bride and the church was full of joy. (Congratulations, cousins!)
We went to visit a gigantic duck-shaped building after the ceremony, because whenever you get the chance to see something shaped like something else – a car shaped like a hot dog, a building shaped like a duck – you should totally do it.
I knew the wedding would be amazing — and the duck did not disappoint either.
Dear ones, if we are lucky, life is full. There are trains to catch and dishes to wash and seemingly endless paperwork. If we don’t watch out, it can be all chores and no entertainment. All deadlines and no joy.
Friends, no matter how high your stack of paperwork, it will still be there in an hour, or tomorrow, or next year.
Let’s go find a giant duck today.