Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Breathe the Air"

When we were kids, Mom would often tag along on walks with us. "Slow down kids. Breathe the air," she'd say. "Look at how beautiful the trees are. Aren't we all lucky?"

We didn't want to slow down, and we definitely didn't want to breathe the air and look at the trees, which children take for granted. We were anxious to get to where we were going and the trees were just . . . trees after all. And the air was just . . . air. Big deal.

I think now, looking back, that my mother was wise in reminding us to look at the things around us, truly look at them, and stop our mad dash past them.

Most adults, like most children, especially in today's speed-crazed world, spend our time dashing from thing to thing. Yet to really know a Place, or create a Place, we must sloooooooooooow down so we can absorb the details there. To notice that honeysuckle flowers in May and lillies bloom in June . . . that Mrs. Adams drives past the house to church with her Jack Russell every Sunday at 10:30 . . . that the locust tree in the middle of the field is losing leaves and may be dying . . . that Martha planted peppers and basil this year . . . that John seems to have lost a lot of weight and is looking ill. . . and the thousand other details that give a place depth and meaning.

I meet people every day who drive from one climate controlled environment to another, thinking about what's next on their to-do list, and plagued by any number of irritations or problems, not seeing all the details of the Place around them. More often than I'd like to admit, I fall into this category myself.

Yet place cannot exist for us individually unless we engage with it. I think many of us live in beautiful physical Places, yet we do not see them and therefore do not value what we have. Perhaps this is what Wallace Stevens was referring to when he wrote,

The greatest poverty is not to live
In a physical world, to feel that one’s desire
Is too difficult to tell from despair.


Anonymous said...

My Neighbor's Roses by Abraham Gruber

"The roses red upon my neighbor's vine
Are owned by him, but they are also mine.
His was the cost, and his the labor, too,
But mine as well as his the joy, their lovliness to view.
They bloom for me and are for me as fair
As for the man who gives them all his care.
Thus I am rich, because a good man grew
A rose clad vine for all his neighbor's view."

Breathe the air & smell the roses.

Our Founders said...


Anonymous said...

Great poem...thanks for sharing.