Saturday, May 9, 2009
COUNTING THE RINGS
A few minutes ago I took a break from rearranging a portion of the woodpile to sit a spell and watch the river. It’s cool here this morning and the sky is filled with ragged clouds, so the light is constantly changing from bright to muted to dim. Perhaps this shifting illumination has contributed to my unsettled mood—set me on a path of pensive contemplation as I gaze at the brown water passing with scarcely a sound a dozen feet away. What secrets does this venerable river know? What can it teach me? More pointedly, what am I capable of learning? Am I open enough to receive such lessons? Sufficiently perceptive to recognize their wisdom? Time is like the river, ever-flowing, in constant passage. Which matters most—duration or distance? Does source set the destination…or is it all the shifting and turning, the pools and pour-overs and back-eddies, the influence of land and years through which we make out way? We travel unceasingly, blindly, sometimes racing, yet at times feel almost stagnant. What shapes and molds us? Is it darkness or light? Summer’s heat or winter’s cold? Before I came over and sat down, I took time to count the growth rings on a rough-sawn chunk of hackberry in the woodpile. Some were wide, others narrow, visible recordings of years forever passed. I thought it amusing when I realized that round of wood and I were approximately the same age. Of course the tree from which the small section of log came has already met its end—though it will finish in a literal blaze of glory next winter when I add it to a cheery hearth fire. Meanwhile, I will add another growth ring to my own time on earth tomorrow. Which of us, I wonder, has fared the best? When my own life circles are counted and considered, will I measure up? I hope so. I pray that I will have been strong and solid…and if I might be granted just one wish, that my final gift might be to somehow bring a measure of warmth to someone who needs it on a cold winter's night.