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Living Heartily

“I’m not the river
that powerful presence.
And I’m not the black oak tree
which is patience personified.
And I’m not redbird
who is a brief life heartily enjoyed.
Nor am I mud nor rock nor sand
which is holding everything together.
No, I am none of these meaningful things, not yet.

Mary Oliver, I’m Not The River

I walked outside barefoot to a chorus of woodland song early this morning. Robins and cardinals and even those clever rascals the crows were all singing to each other at the edge of the woods where humans begin. Birds don’t give a thought to human worries about COVID-19 or mortgage payments or how many steps show up on your watch. No, they go on living heartily, not thinking about the briefness of the duration but working hard to ensure this particular moment isn’t their last.

It’s Spring in New England. The world wakes up similarly to the way it woke up yesterday, but there’s a slight shift in attitude. The mild winter and a pandemic cancelling everything normal in life and Mookie Betts dumped for money and Tom Brady moving on all make this Spring feel different from any other in my memory, but walking out into the morning chorus you see it’s all the stories we tell ourselves. We’re all just living this brief moment and trying to live another day. Stoicism offers a guide to living more powerfully.  To accept fate (Amor Fati) and our ultimate fate (Memento Mori), and to apply this knowledge, this understanding of the world, to embrace every moment.

“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I’m working on things just as we all are. Holding things and people together, working to be patient with this world around me, working on small, daily improvement. Living heartily might seem a challenge right now, but it’s more important than ever. I’d think it was a lot more challenging a hundred or a thousand years ago. No, we live in relative comfort compared to those before us. They’d surely laugh at the things we call hardship. We can hold it all together and get beyond this too. Walking barefoot out to greet this first day of Spring and embrace the chorus seems a good first step. But there’s so much more to do with this day, isn’t there?

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