The harvest would not have been the less if the furrows wavered a little. But, of course, a straight furrow was all that a man was left with. It was his signature, not only on the field but on life.
- Ronald Blythe, Akenfield
* * *
The mundane, the dayinandoutishness of our lives is where we live. The easily identified peaks and valleys of our experience are a minority of days when you pull back and try and see the whole of it. Those seminal experiences - the intensity of them, the stamp, the mark, the scar (perhaps) they leave become pivot points in our understanding of our lives. Or so it seems to me. Joy, despair, hunger, lust, defeat: it is a tumult through the clouds of our being. And we attach a great deal of our emotional and intellectual energy to those points; yet, we do not live on those peaks, we do not reside ever in the valley. We are, for long, large swaths of unnoticed time traveling somewhere between: paying bills, changing diapers, getting the oil changed, buying groceries, waiting in line at the DMV, sitting in cars, in trains, on planes, walking the dog, taking out the garbage, vacuuming, having a cup of coffee, doing the laundry, looking for a job, donating clothes to the Salvation Army, going to funerals, sitting at banquet tables when a friend's son or daughter marries, combing our children's hair while they still let us, staring absently out a window, raking leaves, painting walls, re-arranging furniture, cooking a meal, shitting, laying in bed another five minutes, holding hands with our beloved, singing when the house is empty, daydreaming, trying to remember the sound of our father's laughter (if he ever laughed), and on and on throughout the day of our days.
This is what our lives are made of, and we do great harm in letting it slide by unnoticed, in not bringing to bear in these moments the fullness of our attention, our openness, the possibility that something great is happening right now, something as meaningful as our exaltation and our darkest fear. It isn't to make these things precious and holy, but that which is holy must be able to be found, to be recognized in the world as it is.
...a stone covered by a species of vividly green moss, small and velvety, that seemed enjoying a vernal prime of its own, in the midst of the universal dissolution. In a moment, like a rush of warm summer air, there came sweeping over his mind the memory of certain pier-posts at Weymouth, covered with small green seaweed...
* * *
We speak with satisfaction of the first cup of coffee in the morning, the smell of cut grass, the bellies of clouds lit vermilion by a setting sun: the very definition of day in and out, diurnal repetitions. We are steadied by these repetitions whether we recognize it or not. It can also lull us into believing that these events are unimportant because we are certain to see them again. This creates a dullness in our lives, an absence of wonder at the inscrutable mystery of being here at all, at having a consciousness that can acknowledge that we are here at all. If you think your life exists only at the poles, if that is what fills your memory, occupies your mind - nursing wounds that should have been long healed, holding hostage a moment of utter joy for fear you won't feel it again you forgo the possibility that your life is ever ready to reveal itself to you: in a cup of coffee, on the lichen splayed upon a stone, but mostly in the manner in which you go about your days.
The furrows can be straight or crooked and it won't much affect the harvest. There will be food enough, but what will be missing from the crooked rows is the sense of a mind alive to its possibilities and its obligations: to itself, to those close beside it, to the earth itself. If anything is worth doing it is worth doing as well as possible for it is a gift you give yourself (and those you love) to be the sort of person who withholds nothing from the task of answering the questions life sets before you: will you plow this field, can you comfort your child, forgive yourself, will you do all you can with all you have, or will you cheat yourself and us of your gifts?
Heroes are born moment to moment. The peak expression is just another moment. What matters is the daily habit of being awake, quickened by the fact of your pulse and the promise that holds.
* * *
The plowman only has his furrows for his work. The seasons roll on and he, too, is rolled over and turned back into the ground and so it goes for us. Does that mean we are excused from trying?
Not a bit.
* * *
Look around you today. If you can drop the attitude, you'll see your life waiting for you. It is everpresent everywhere.
How can it not be?