It’s Gratituesday! Very late but still Tuesday. And so, thoughts on Gratitude. Today I’ve been thankful for the various roads, side paths, trails, meandering walks, and, yes, even detours I’ve taken so far in life. I never set out to be standing where I am today. I don’t think I could have planned such a thing. But here I am, wondering how I got here. Wondering why I got here. Wondering if I can feel gratitude for where I find myself. I got here by taking a variety of roads, some reluctantly, some eagerly. Some with a frightening naiveté, some with willful rebellion, and some with no choice whatsoever.
Moss growing amongst stepping-stones happens slowly. Edges become softened by years and footfalls, snow and ice, sun and rain. Such a work of creation takes patience which few of us possess anymore.
And yet, so much of life requires this elusive persevering ability. Simply allowing the passage of time to do its slow, steady work feels so unproductive. Sitting and staring into space can’t possibly be accomplishing anything. And yet I find an odd emptying out and filling up happening when I let such slowness happen.
Some days it feels as if all I’m doing is pouring sand back and forth between one container and another, like a small child in a sandbox. The same thoughts, the same subject, the same recurring aches, back and forth, side to side, up and down, around and around. I’m not even digging, just reviewing details over and over and over.
Maybe, someday, I’ll have a cobblestone path edged in soft green moss that I can wander through in my mind. For now it’s all sharp rocks and pointy edges and dirt. The following quote makes this idea vivid and memorable:
“The best teachers have showed me that things have to be done bit by bit. Nothing that means anything happens quickly–we only think it does. The motion of drawing back a bow and sending an arrow straight into a target takes only a split second, but it is a skill many years in the making.” ~ Joseph Bruchac
This next idea by Emerson sounds profound, but I’m not sure I buy it. Sure I get that he means to be a trailblazer, be a leader, be brave, think outside the box. All those ideas that back in his day were shocking and revolutionary.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’m not so sure leaving trails everywhere we head out falls under the wise and wonderful category.
I was grateful to wander off the trail into this meadow recently where I didn’t want to be followed or even necessarily find my way back there again someday. The experience of a few perfect hours, my back against a log, snow in the shadowed spots, silence and sunshine beginning a long slow healing process can’t be replicated.
Unlike sidewalks which are cookie cutter copies. We have the strangest sidewalks in my little suburban town in the desert. Winding, bending, meandering contraptions. They look quaint and a bit artistic. But if you need to actually get somewhere in a decent amount of time, it’s a bit of a nuisance to be zigzagging your way there. A one mile stretch gets much longer when you’re lollygagging to and fro. Even riding a bike on such a path gets annoying and inconvenient. Add in the bonus of temperatures above one hundred the lovely, landscaped concrete path is downright silly.
I understand the concept, really I do. I’ve wandered hand in hand with MSH on a moonlight evening on this very spot. Maybe it’s a subliminal message telling me to slow down. Take in the moment. Don’t wish away the spot you’re at for one further down the road. Learn from the path you’re walking.
But what if the road you’re on hurts? Pinches? Burns? Aches? Then what? Am I still supposed to somehow enjoy the journey? Don’t count on it. Not from me. Not here. I’m not one of those “grateful for my hardships” kind of people. And yet there’s this:
“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.” ~ Louis L’Amour
I learn my most profound lessons from children. This one in particular points the way toward joy more often than anyone I know. The quote reminds me that distraction and physical nourishment can’t fall by the wayside.
“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” ~ Anne Lamott
It’s the little things that can make all the difference in how bearable or delightful an experience turns out.
But, surely sometimes it is the little things that bring the world crashing down around us.
“Often it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the little pebble in your shoe.” ~ Muhammad Ali
But sometimes it definitely is the mountain itself that explodes, avalanches and crushes you. Or maybe it’s just so dang steep and constant that you’re worn out.
What then? Where do you get your oxygen from? How do you lift the weight off and dig yourself out? Or do you have a higher power that help you do that? Friends? Family? Faith? Hope?
I’m not sure if those are little things or big things. It depends. But those make a difference.
All the metaphor and symbolism in paths, roads and trails happens for a reason. It’s a no-brainer. We see life in a line, one thing after another, just like a road. I’m not always thrilled (understatement) with the road I’m on, but eventually I can look back and see a few things. I can see progress, sometimes. I can see something I thought I couldn’t do, that I did miraculously manage to do. I can see stuff I learned, or failed to learn and might need to learn again. I can see traveled byways strewn with gratitude and tears.