Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Drawn by Pleasure

The weather in Missouri has been kind. No, more than kind. For February, it has been positively benevolent. And every day I tell myself that I need to get out there and work with Honor, or at least trim his hooves and Journey's. But at day's end, I find I have never quite made the trek from house to barn. Being a responsible person at heart, each time this happens, I feel just a little more pressure and a bit more worry, not to mention increased guilt over my procrastination.

As usually happens in such cases, the balance of concern finally outweighed other activities, and this week I headed out into a brilliant 60-degree February afternoon to get the chore done. Taking Journey first, who stands like a statue while I trim and rasp, I began the long-deferred job. Birds filled the air with song, the sun warmed my back, and the quiet calm with which she handed me each foot in turn soon elevated the experience into the realm of pleasure. I had been missing out on this?! Occupied with the kitchen remodel and subsequent housecleaning coupled with the tyranny of life in general, I'd lost touch with how much I love being out there with these big animals.

That's why I have horses in the first place. It's not like I need more work to do or more responsibilities. Horses bring me pleasure. They really do. But all too often something else creeps in--the "oughts and shoulds" of life, and soon, I'm avoiding, dreading, and finally doing under duress what came into being as a result of a dream. I suspect that I am not the only one who can become driven by duty rather than drawn by pleasure.

C.S. Lewis talks about this phenomenon in his book An Experiment in Criticism.Though he is referring specifically to why and how people read, I find that the principle applies to many other aspects of life. We begin something for the pleasure it gives us, and we love it. But somehow along the way, a sense of duty creeps in. We forget the joy we once felt and know only the obligation we now labor under.

This can happen in relationships, too. God, friends, family, spouse--if we allow it, familiarity and the "every-day-ness" of life can drain these vital connections to the point where they slide into obligation. What began as pure pleasure erodes into a nagging guilt, prodding us to do what once we longed after, and somewhere along the way, we become human doings instead of human beings.

So I'm pondering that this morning, (which promises to be another gorgeous day), and thinking that I will turn down the voice of duty and focus on the joys set before me--God, people, writing, horses, house, and the great outdoors. In short, the job I have given myself today is to look beyond duty and re-discover pleasure.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dreaming and Doing

Toots Negotiates the Mess
In an earlier entry, I referenced the hopeful chaos of our kitchen remodel. Well, the kitchen is almost finished, but the chaos does not seem to be diminishing. I've almost taken to watching around the corner to see if some of the mess is erupting from the crack where the baseboards meet the floor (something I've long suspected).

I'd like to blame it on such happenings, but the real problem is that I find myself strangely loathe to face facts: #1--Rooms do not clean themselves. #2--Most kids, mine included, do not clean rooms without parental insistence. #3--Whereas the chaos may exist for a reason, it is time to reclaim not only the dining room, but all the other rooms that have suffered from neglect in the past six weeks. Much as I'd like the situation to remedy itself, if I want to live in an orderly, peaceful environment, I am going to have to make an effort.

As I begin sorting and vacuuming, I'm also revisiting what I want my everyday life to look like and what steps I need to take to help that picture happen. Truthfully, I am a bit appalled by some the discrepancies between my dreams and my realities. However, while dusting a bookshelf this morning, I came across a beautiful edition of poetry by Lord Byron.

Most of my adult life, I've aspired to read poetry. It seems like such a gracious, thoughtful thing to do. Indeed, I feel an afinity to the statement by Lady Catherine DeBourgh of Pride and Predjudice fame: "If I had ever learnt [piano (or in my case, poetry)], I should have been a great proficient."  :-) But in the same manner that my housework has never accomplished itself, poetry has not managed to impress itself upon me and transform me into said proficient while it sits unread upon my shelf.

Poetry Nook
People have said that we either happen to life, or life will happen to us. Of course, we all want to be those of the first variety, but I find that in most cases it is not so much a matter of either/or, but both: sometimes I happen, and other times it seems all I can do to keep from drowning as life happens to me.

Ah, well. Whatever may have transpired in all my yesterdays, today I happened to my life. I chose. I took steps toward what I want my life to include. I won't list all of these here, but besides connecting with daughters and reclaiming my living room, I sat in a favorite chair and pondered "A Fragment" from Lord Byron's poetry, while snow feathers sifted down from a February sky. Tomorrow I may visit Byron again, or one of his fellows. And I may play my harp, sip a fragrant cup of tea, and do a little more vacuuming.

For like it or not, while the "what" we do is important, the doing of it is the essense. Every day presents new opportunities for intentional choices. Perhaps yesterday was not so brilliant in that realm, but that's okay. We have today, and, Lord willing, a long line of tomorrows in which to happen to our lives. Strung together one after the other, these moments of intentionality begin to create a reality much more in keeping with the dreams we each carry in our hearts.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mother Thoughts

I've been thinking a lot about mothers lately. Besides the fact that I am one, and have opportunity every day to mother my kids, an epic thing has occurred: a little baby girl has been born. I know that every child is a miracle, and I never cease to feel amazement and joy at just how perfect each one is. But this birth is different because the peaceful little mite of a being just happens to be my first grandchild. Yes! I have joined the doting grandparent club, membership dating from February 2, 2012.

Though it's been a while since I pondered newborn wonders, I  do spend the bulk of my time mothering: I'm in the season of learning how to mother adult children while still parenting three teens. So it has been sweet, in these past few days, to re-visit mother-thoughts of an earlier day.

Truly, mother love is a deep and wondrous thing. In a moment we are transformed into selfless hearts that beat only to give life and love and peace to the little one we hold in our arms. Our world expands to encompass the universe, while simultaneously being reduced to meeting the primary needs of  food and comfort. And that love does not diminish. It deepens, widens, stretches, so that it may continue to hold the child as he or she grows--up, up, up into adulthood where we may get periodic breaks from providing food, but still have unlimited opportunity to learn the nuances of providing comfort and connection.

I am not speaking as an expert, but as a learner here. I think I have done okay in the care-giving arena over the years--food, warmth, clothing, safety--but the whole realm of connecting on the heart level is one which I have always felt like a mix between an explorer and a pioneer. Much of it is uncharted ground for me. How do you do this thing called "loving well"? Everytime I open up new territory, I long not just to stake a claim, but to plant trees and prove up on that ground in order to create lasting habitation where love can bloom and grow and fill the earth with fruit.

It's that way in all our relationships, really--parent-child, husband-wife, brother-sister, friend, grandparent-grandchild. There is exploration. There is the sowing, the tending, the watering. Yes, it's work, and yes, sometimes we grow weary. But there's never a question of not pressing forward, for love compells us toward a sure reward. Of this I am reminded afresh as I watch my granddaughter, memorizing her tiny sweetness and remembering that long-ago yet not so far away morning when I cradled her mother in my arms for the very first time. Ah yes! Love is infinitely worth the investment.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chicken Wisdom

Mother Hen Update

In an earlier post, I spotlighted our little black hen who hatched six little fluffballs, and was doing such an amazing job of nurturing and protecting them. In mid-winter, her own warmth kept the Missouri cold at bay while the babies grew feathers. With special calls and peckings here and there, she taught those chickies how to find food, how to drink water, and to do all things chicken-y. (http://journeywithhonor.blogspot.com/2011/12/speaking-of-chickens.html ),

Back off, buddy!

There is a rooster twice her size along with five other hens, all in the same pen, but this mama kept a no-peck zone around her babies, facing down even the curiosity and pomposity of said rooster while her birdlings peeped and scratched as if they owned the entire world. Week by week feathers replaced fluff, until almost three months later, they now look like miniature adult chickens.

Chicks at three months
Which brings us up to this week. One morning while checking on them, I realized that their mother was not with them.  The six fledglings perched on the edge of the feeder in a little huddle, but she did not. A quick search found her: she was on the roost with the other hens. My first reaction was concern. Why would she leave her babies? Could they survive without their mama?

Mother and son (or daughter)

But as I watched the interplay of the flock--hens and rooster hopping off the roost, heading to the newly-opened outside run, leaving the chicks in their group pecking about the floor without a glance toward where their black mother had exited--I was struck once again by the instinctive wisdom of that little chicken-mother. She had given her babies all they needed in order to survive and thrive in their world, and as they had grown, she faded into their background until one day, much like any other, she took a final step away and rejoined the life she'd known before she set out to hatch those new members of society.

Call me if you need me.
Okay. I know there are some gaps in the analogy, for human moms can never forget their mother role, no matter how old their babies become, and chickens don't have enough brains to go through the parenting process with cogniscence.  Nevertheless, I admire the calmness with which the little black hen stands to the side and observes how her children carry on. She doesn't hover, as she once did, making little clucking, encouraging noises, leading them every place they need to go, and forever keeping them dependent on her.

They are growing up as they were meant to, and she does not try to keep that from happening. Rather, she encourages and blesses, instructs and models what it means to be a grown up chicken, and they in turn follow in her footsteps as if it were the most natural process in the world. Hats off to you, small black hen. You have done a wonderful job, and your children are beautiful :-)