Defer or Dance?
“Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.” – Seneca
The other night I was walking alone on the street. Except I wasn’t alone at all. Two great horned owls were calling out to each other high in the pine trees, moving silently in a dance of their own around the neighborhood, far apart at first, then closer together, then off to another stand of trees, and finally further away. I’d look to the dark sky for a silhouette but never see them. Just the “who who… who, who” of two owls whispering sweet nothings to each other before moving off to the honeymoon suite.
Yesterday I watched the moon dance with Venus as they set in the early evening. I was car shopping for my daughter at the time, and opted to stay put while my wife and daughter drove the car we’d ultimately buy one last time to be sure about it before we signed the papers. Having already made up my mind I stared at the dancers in the sky instead. I pointed Venus and the waxing crescent moon out to the car salesman, who looked, mumbled something no doubt meant to be acknowledgment and walked back inside, clearly not as impressed with the sky dance as I was.
This morning I was texting with a friend of mine currently moored in St. Kitts, looking at mega yachts with toys strewn all about them as the one percent play in the same harbor that he and his wife are swimming in this morning. I follow them with interest from island-to-island as they bounce around the Caribbean. We have an open invitation to join them at any time, and believe me, I’ve looked into it. But the timing is all wrong and I’ll have to defer a swim in paradise this winter in favor of steady employment and family. Life is full of tradeoffs after all.
Another friend was hiking this weekend, collecting peaks on her quest to knock off a series of summits she hears the call to visit. She’s hiking almost every free moment to achieve her goals, sometimes with her husband, sometimes with friends, and sometimes solo. I understand the call, as the Appalachian Trail calls me in a similar way, but I’m deferring that goal knowing I may never do it. We have choices in life, and I’ve chosen the one more traveled by, and that has made all the difference. I know I could defer forever and die with regrets, but I’d regret walking off the path I’m on too. Life is funny that way.
If each day is a separate life as Seneca says, then every day we wake up we have a choice about what we’ll do with this life we’ve been given. Today I won’t be swimming with turtles in St. Kitts, I won’t be hiking the Appalachian Trail, I won’t be gazing at the Northern Lights in Iceland or Labrador, and I won’t be hiking to Machu Picchu. So what of today – this separate life? A walk in the woods sounded like a good compromise and I explored local conservation land full of dog walkers and families, and blazed a bit of open land where my footprints in crusty snow were the first. Perhaps not as grand as other paths, but I have a great family and my health and owls calling out in the night, and that’s not so bad either. As we end the year, it’s a good time to reflect and be grateful for what you have, with an eye towards the future. And maybe that’s enough for today.