When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
From afar and up close
When I was little I used to like to sit and watch ants as they scurried along the patio stones in our backyard. I must have found something fascinating in the way that they so determinedly went about their work; they always seemed like they were trying to accomplish something important. They would tirelessly carry tiny grains of sand and other bits of nature to build themselves a hill and a life within it, and no matter how many times I swept their efforts away with the bottom of my foot, the ants would continue moving forward with purpose, marching against time and adversity to leave their mark upon the world.
Sometimes as an adult, I have surreal moments where I feel as if I'm watching human life from afar, much like I used to watch the ants years ago. I've more than once in recent weeks felt an all-encompassing mixture of awe and panic as I've studied the incredible photos Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has been sharing from space, or suddenly noticed the streaks left behind by jet planes lit up like comets in a pink sky where the sun was just beginning to set, or laid back on the snowy ground to stare up in wonder at millions of crystalline flakes swirling and floating in the air above me. In those moments, I've become suddenly and keenly aware of the sheer enormity of the universe and the absolute smallness of myself, of the infinite number of possibilities that exist in every second and of the finite number of days I have on this planet. The realization that in the incomprehensibly big picture of time and space and life, I am only a speck even smaller than an ant hits me with a force so strong sometimes that I feel like I can't breathe.
When I do breathe, and feel myself once again planted firmly where I'm sitting, I remember that while the big picture is powerful and magnificent, it is missing something important. It's like the difference between looking out at a field blanketed by snow (which is beautiful, indeed, in the way it sparkles in the afternoon sun) and examining in careful detail the perfect and intricate combination of points that make up a single, pretty snowflake. The latter is also breathtaking in its own right. While we may be small, each of us (and the tiny grains of sand we carry with us in the form of our hopes and dreams and heartfelt efforts in life) are unique and significant. Some of us may not accomplish anything that will be visible from afar, but still, every one of us will leave our mark, somehow, through a meaningful life lived with passion and in the hearts we touch along the way.
I have an even greater appreciation for the ants now that I'm older. Their implied message to move forward undeterred in the building of a good life holds a wisdom I value more with each passing day.