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Stillness Instead

Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.
— Mary Oliver, The Gardener

Just this morning, I opted for the garden instead of a hike. I’ve done that a lot recently, choosing just about anything instead of a hike. Last week it was finishing a book I’d wanted to dive into, and I celebrated my time not doing something else I love. For it isn’t that I don’t love hiking, I surely do, it’s more a case of wanting something else instead. When you have free will you get to choose, within reason, such things as where to be and what to do.

When it comes to such things as checklists of books read and summits climbed, we sometimes opt for none of the above. Life is a series of days where anything is possible if we just persist, or nothing gets done if we resist. What leads to resistance in a world that rewards action? Are we the lesser for having opted out? Or do we find something else in stillness?

Lately I’ve wanted nothing more than time in the garden. It’s June, after all, and even a raw and wet June is still a month of growth and possibility. Slowing down enough to find the beauty in my own backyard seems the best use of this time.

“It is the beauty within us that makes it possible for us to recognize the beauty around us. The question is not what you look at but what you see.” ― Henry David Thoreau

That old expression, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”, applies equally well with the geraniums as with the mountains. When this student is ready I’ll attend to that checklist of summits once again, or perhaps I won’t. For today there are other lessons to learn.


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