It can be difficult to take stock of what’s on hand, when things have been allowed to slip into disarray. Hard to stay on task as our attention wanders so far away from itself. If only we expected ourselves to be less sensible, more improvisational.
How to maintain checks and balances, how to keep oneself in the counting house while there is so much to learn, such an infinite multitude of things to be amazed by?
We are surrounded by teachers.
Take, for instance, the Norway maple. Not only does it flourish in central Europe, but also east of France and on into Russia. Not only does it grace southwest Asia with its presence, but also my back yard here at the western edge of New England.
Shallow grooves intersect, all along her greyish bark. She has the rounded crown one would expect from such an emerald queen whose hair yellows in autumn. She starves other plants of moisture, and forgivably so.
I say forgivably, because a little unintended cruelty – such as the self-imposed kind that comes with attempting to take an inventory of one’s life – appears to me to be the way of the world: animal, plant, human, or otherwise.
Every day I make a list of things that need to be done, things that might slip through the fine mesh net of short-term memory.
Today, the list contained more items than I could possibly accomplish. So I did what you might expect – I pushed it down into the folds of my left-hand pocket, tightened up my shoes and went walking instead, to space out and observe a planet that happens to be a perfect distance from this particular sun in order for life to exist and thrive. I took along a pen and paper, because when you’re panning for gold, you never know what you might find.
Later, when I empty my pockets for the day, I’ll look over the list again, to see what must be transferred to tomorrow’s list. Some items might no longer ring with such importance, and will simply be discarded. And of course I’ll need to consider what standing I’m in with the relatives I failed to call, friends I didn’t message, professional contacts I never emailed, bills I didn’t pay, appointments I missed.
Then I’ll go outside and watch the last strands of milky light recede beyond the treetops, revealing steadfast Jupiter like a celestial anchor. And a little ways over in the sky, the ember of Mars rocking in a luminous cradle.
And then, as if that isn’t enough, the fireflies will come out with their earthbound constellation of flashing lamps, and I’ll hear the neighbor cooking dinner through her open kitchen window.