Last week, I took a long hike with a dear friend, up through a forest that had been consumed by fire a few years back. It was not quite as conventionally pretty as other hikes nearby, with its ghost trees poking up to the sky and the newer undergrowth just beginning to thrive. But it was gorgeous to see all of the layers of life exposed: the scarred elder trees that had persevered through the flames and were puffing out new pinecones, the grey and rotting pieces of those that had collapsed and were resting beneath our feet, the pillars of those that had died but not yet fallen, watching over us.
And all around – still, again – life.
The water gushed down the falls, cold and clear. The woodpecker perched on the top of a ghost tree, cleaning and preening, feather by feather. The saplings stretched toward the sun, fresh and gold-green.
For a long time, I’ve looked forward to beginnings, and sincerely so. The next book, the next season, the next trip are worthy of celebrating, piling more and more opportunities for the richness of life on top of what’s already been experienced.
Another dear friend likes to tell me, “there’s a reason the windshield is larger than the rear view mirror,” and I have taken this motto to heart.
Eager as I am for whatever is to come, I have not been as willing to pause to give thanks for what has passed, for the compost that has been made of all that has come before and the way that its nourishing all that is happening now. This sounds easy enough to do, but it requires also revisiting the pain of what has passed, at least a little. Whether the end of blueberry season or the end of a life, we can’t get at the gratitude without swimming through some sorrow.
Dear friends, this week, as we begin all kinds of new things, let’s pause and look back. Let’s thank all that has come before – the recent and the distant, the creation and the destruction, the joy and the sorrow. All that makes this new moment possible.
*** In case you missed it, our latest reading list can be found here. ***