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Shards of Light

“We’re only here for a minute. We’re here for a little window. And to use that time to catch and share shards of light and laughter and grace seems to me the great story.” – Brian Doyle, from the Forward of One Long River Of Song

The news about the Sycamore tree at Hadrian’s Wall reached New Hampshire perhaps around the same time that it reached everywhere else in the world. That one person can bring light or darkness to an inordinate amount of people is secretly understood by most of us, but we all hope that people will choose light. Surely, most do, or our species would never evolve and grow. And yet we must be prepared for the darkness.

The obvious thing about my writing is that I remain almost singularly focused on the positive. This is a reminder to myself and anyone who might stumble upon this blog that there is grace and beauty in this world, in spades, and it’s often the common ground that illuminates all of us. Sometimes it’s a simple thing, like a dahlia holding on to summer after the rest of the garden fades away. In a way that tree along Hadrian’s Wall was like that dahlia, holding on long after the rest of the forest was swept away. Do we focus on the beauty in that realization or the darkness of how it came to be?

Like a muscle broken down through physical stress, darkness brings with it the opportunity for growth and improvement. Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls this antifragility, in which we grow stronger collectively in the face of the stressors that life throws our way. But only if we learn and grow together. Alternatively, we might shrink back within ourselves and atrophy. We must choose growth, and go to the light.

Forget Instagram-worthy singularity. I’d plant a thousand trees where one stood at Hadrian’s Wall. Return the forest to the land. Bring beauty back a thousandfold to honor the last holdout. That would be a great ending to a dark story.

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