I strolled my neighborhood in unseasonably temperate weather, perfect for a walk — the last few warm hours before a predicted winter storm.
I heard leaf blowers, but never saw them. I saw people raking the brown, drying remnants of autumn, and running them over with mulching mowers. I saw a family taking photos of their toddlers playing in a leaf pile. At one house, a determined man used a front-loading Bobcat to push the masses of leaves from his lawn into one big stack near the edge.
Maybe I should have been have been doing yard work instead of playing tourist to all of the neighbors doing theirs. I still have undone weeding, left over from the summer. On the other hand, the mess of my yard might not be visible under the snow by this time tomorrow.
The bodies of the leaves are gone, but their spirits have not yet crossed over:
A red-tail hawk glided to the ground, not twenty feet from me. I’d never seen the wingspan of one from so close. It wasn’t a swooping prey snatch. The bird stopped and sat, looking intently at the ground, channeling its inner robin.
I stopped in my tracks. Nobody else nearby to startle it. But the slow draw of a phone from my coat pocket was enough to send it flying up to a tree limb. I tracked it and took a photo, but couldn’t zoom in enough to get a sharp image.
So it was memory already, the details no longer available, except what welled in me when I saw those substantial, functional, wings of power spread so near. The feeling remains vivid.
The visual details fade. Here’s what I have:
Photo and words both so inadequate to convey the experience.
Note: Posting a day late, but didn’t change the title.
I walk a fair amount. I usually commute to work on foot. I also walk recreationally. It occurred to me to share what I encountered. I know I’m not winning any awards with my photos. I’m as amateur as they come. But here’s life as I see it.
On today’s walk, carpets of leaves:
My own elongated shadow:
A large deer in someone’s yard. Some kids off-camera called to him, “Here Bucky. Bucky, Bucky.” Until he turned to face them. Then one of them yelled, “Run, before he stabs us with his horns!” Spoiler: there was no horn stabbing.
Look behind the bench.
What you looking at there behind that bench?
I perambulated 1.75 miles, just around the neighborhood.
Interesting fact: you don’t have wait for New Year’s Day to start working on a goal. This November 11 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that silenced the guns of World War I, or the Great War as it was called at the time. It had been one of the largest and bloodiest conflicts in the history of humankind, resulting in millions of deaths and immeasurable pain and suffering.
By the time it ended, the world was hungry for peace. It was supposed to be the “war to end all wars” yet many of the wars that have followed had roots in that conflict. It turns out peace isn’t something you get once, set on a shelf to admire and there it stays forever. Peace requires an active, sustained effort, always. We will never have to stop working for it.
Robert F. Kennedy said, “Each time a man(sic) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
And Desmond Tutu has said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
So my Armistice Day resolution is to do my little bit, starting with internal work, to create a ripple. To actively look for little bits of good I can do where I am each day.
A friend of mine recently passed away after a six-year struggle with cancer. She was truly a light in the world — one of those individuals who inspires the best in others. After the last presidential election, when many of us were on social media discussing what we could do, or what we would do to try to save the world, she posted that she was in the middle of chemo treatments and much too weak to go to meetings or phone bank or march. But she would spend some time each day on loving kindness meditations. That was her ripple.
I have decided, though it won’t be the whole of my action, I will try to help that ripple spread by focusing on the same thing as my main goal. My first concrete step is peace within myself, so I can then work on the world. In that spirit, and to honor my friend’s memory, I have the goal to engage in a loving kindness meditation at least four mornings a week. From there, my actions can build.