Water gently falls from the the bare twigs striking the sparse leaves. Deep within the mists the sound of hooves cautiously moving through the bush echoes up from the hollow below. The air is full of random chirps from the various little birds. I can also hear the dull thud of the local Pileated Woodpecker as he probes the old snag that’s just out of sight. The mists have stirred up the smell of the moss and it occasionally wafts my direction in the light breeze.
In my youth I would sit for hours on a rock ledge and immerse myself in the surrounding forest. In an age when the only wireless communication was a two way radio and reality wasn’t virtual time belonged to the experiencer.
It makes me question the definition of a lifetime. Is it a measure of quantity or quality? Is ten centuries of existence in a box a lifetime or is life-time the time spent experiencing creation?
The laughter of the woodpecker rings out as I contemplated my place in creation and I realized that his jovial outlook on life is tied to the fact that woodpeckers never invented a clock to divide their lives between existence and living.
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The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is accredited with saying that “Nature does not hurry yet everything is accomplished”. In our high maintenance society of modern day planet earth we seem to be constantly on the go. Our lives are constantly governed by the ticking of a clock. Or in my case the prompting of my Google assistant reminding me to check the laundry or change the furnace filter. My smartwatch is constantly buzzing in sync with my phone to remind of one minor task or another. All of this perfectly timed organization allows for us to keep all the balls in the air. But is there an important difference between a full life and a busy life? Lao Tzu’s observation leaves it open to imply that we might be missing something if we are constantly being hurried. Yes Google will help you keep on top of all the important things but only if you remember to set the reminder in the first place. Is it all just cyberneticly enhanced rushing?
I suppose that the answer is in making time for that sense of peace. Sometimes that means that the laundry in the dryer gets a little wrinkled. Sometimes it means that one of the balls that we’re juggling has to be tucked into a pocket for a little while as we enjoy the graceful spiral of a snail’s shell found on the edge of a trail that we really hadn’t planned on walking that day.
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Tonight’s image is an old mile marker that’s found along an abandoned road near the Meadow River in West Virginia. Apparently it marks mile number 42.
Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Universe have already begun to snicker. For the rest of the world here’s why. In the book and subsequent movies a large supercomputer named Deep Thought was built to answer the ultimate question of “What is the meaning of life, God, the universe and everything?” After billions of years Deep Thought came up with the answer 42. The irony was that the people who built the computer were long dead and by the time the answer came nobody could remember the question or why it was asked. Now, to be honest I have never read the book and was only present while the movie was playing. As such, I’m only familiar with the trivia. But when I heard the story I began to appreciate implication.
We as humans seem to be hardwired to want to skip learning experience and go straight to mastery of just about everything. We want the “cheat codes”. So much so that we often put more efforts into gaining the cheat than we do experiencing the win. In the Hitchhiker’s Guide the scientists and priests who spent all that time looking for the meaning of life did so at the expense of living life to its fullest. This is the folly of trying to win at all costs. It’s the struggle that makes the victory sweet. If you skip the struggle then the victory is hollow and you never really get to experience it fully. What’s more is that you tend to be so focused on the goal that the importance of the original purpose is lost.
Maybe I’m making that very mistake myself in trying to make my point. Let me close by simply saying that life is an adventure. One that you’ll miss if you try to skip ahead.
Oh and the answer to the question asked by Douglas Adams? Well, I have an opinion of course. The meaning of life, God, the universe and everything is that we were created by God to know the love of our creator. That’s it. It’s that simple. No need for advanced AI or billions of years waiting for an answer that’s as vague as the question. Just talk to him and listen for answers.
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The mid morning sun has driven away most of the clouds. As I walk the gravel road that leads into the forest I’m aware of almost everything that moves just inside the trees. Several squirrels and a few chipmunks scurry around looking for the first of fallen acorns. The birds flitter from branch to branch. The buzzing of insects is all around. A few leaves tumble down from the canopy. The sounds of nature fill the air. The rapids in the Gauley River below roar and the voices of the other park patrons blend into the chorus. There are five females, two males and three children all near the playground. I can’t see them. But I know that they are there. I can follow the concentration of the bird noises which grows softer where the humans are present. Deeper into the forest the chaos of the outside world fades away. I can smell the horseshoe fungus growing in a black locus tree. The smell of Wintergreen tells me a large birch tree is nearby. As I drop over the hill the forest opens up into a small clearing. A stump left behind by the park rangers is the perfect spot to enjoy the solitude. A place where the unbroken chain of thoughts and contemplation can lead me to a place where inspiration lives. And then it happens. An idea is born and it grows into a dream. And the dream was wonderful. I’ll open the little file in my memory and tuck the dream safely away for now. I began to walk back to my big blue truck occasionally peeking into the file in my memory checking on the little fledgling dream. He has to be kept safe and warm while I prepare a place for the dream live.
If your mind can conceive and your heart can believe, then your will can achieve.
Our dreams are possible only if we work to make them real.
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It’s said that photographers work with two main elements. Light and Time. I suppose that’s why so many of my writings emphasizes the observation of time. Tonight I’m looking at another version of my favorite old barn and I began to think about how quickly all of our tomorrows become yesterdays. It seems that I was just blogging about how much I was looking forward to Springtime and this morning I saw the leaves falling on my lawn. When I was a kid summer seemed to last a lifetime and today I blink my eyes and it’s almost gone. Sure we’ve had some unseasonably warm weather but the light is fading fast. A few years ago I was in a gym and one of the other men in the locker room made the same observation about how fast the summer went by. His friend answered that when they were only six years old summer was 1/6 of their lives. Now they’re sixty years old and summer was only 1/60 of their lives. The passage of time was relative to the age of the observer.
We live in the moment but moments pass so quickly and we are left with a collection of yesterdays. We can plan what we want tomorrow to become but we only have now to bend time and forge the now into a yesterday worth collecting. Mistakes will be made. It’s inevitable. Many of us are trying so hard to go back and fix the errors that we are losing the now and the opportunity for a new and better yesterday. You see, the old cliche about building a better tomorrow is just that. A cliche. All we can really do is use our now in the best way possible and hope that when we are finished with it that it matures into a better yesterday. A yesterday that is captured by the lens of memory and added to a fine collection which can be shared with those we love.