Sat 30 Apr 2016
Sigh. It is snowing again. Still. We are in the middle of a forecast that calls for five days of snow/rain. At this time of year and at this altitude, none of this is unusual but for some reason, it is discouraging me this year. I am ready for warmth and more consistent sun. Yet, I know that without all this moisture, this semi-arid climate I live in at 5280′ would dry up in a New York minute increasing our fire danger significantly.
Drought and the subsequent fires that come are our major weather-related dangers here at this old house. All of this old wood in these historic buildings, close together on the property, is a tinderbox. One kitchen fire and it is all over! Meanwhile, I find myself restless, unsettled, feeling house-bound as the trails are all wet and walking covers my glasses with raindrops.
This Thursday is Ascension Day, 40 days after the Resurrection. It is also the day that our year of quiet listening and discernment ends. On Thursday, we begin to actively seek what next steps will be for us. We have allowed ourselves during this last year only to talk in broad principles of interest. We have focused on “being” more than on “doing.” When one is involved in the heavy-lifting of an active career or call, it is easy to slip into thinking that our worth is based on our “doing.” When that work or call ends, we are left with our “being.” Is that good news? For some, yes; for others, no. Or as someone one said, “Who am I when I am no longer what I was?”
If we have defined ourselves for the most part by our “doing” in life, what we can produce, when we are no longer able to do as much or as well, when we are empty-nesters or widowed, when we retire or are fired, when we are too ill or old, we may find ourselves despairing, looking for external definitions for our value. Throughout all the stages of our life, we must cultivate our “being,” that is, who we are when all of life’s props are stripped away from us. Kurt Vonnegut encourages us to “…Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
One tragedy of the decimation of arts programs in our public schools is that children are not being taught to develop their souls and spirits as well as their minds. As with most things, life-skills are best learned along the way beginning in early childhood. “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Children who are urged to focus on a way to “make money” through their educational years without the counterbalancing encouragement to figure out how to make a life for themselves in the midst of economic realities will struggle with tying their basic human worth to what they can produce.
Maybe this continued miserable weather that makes it hard to get out and “do something” is God-through-Nature’s invitation to have a day more focused on being. Is my unsettledness an indication that I still have a lot to learn about doing vs. being? I invite you to join me in reflecting on that this week.