Thursday, July 21, 2011
So this is what it's come to. We sit around all day, inside, in as few clothes as possible. Here you are today, July 21, 2011, in just a diaper (one of those pictures you'll just love me for when you're older!). But it's 98 degrees outside, with a heat index getting close to 120. I went running today and wanted to take a cold shower, but the water wouldn't get cold--the water heater probably doesn't have to do much work nowadays! I turn on the radio, and NPR talks about the heat wave, the unbearable temperatures. One interviewee even said that it's like "Satan opened the gates to hell."
Now I know about the dangers of heat stroke; it's why we sit inside all day. And you know I like to be out and about, so this is far from the ideal situation for me. Yet as I listen to complaint after complaint, I can't help but think of the days I was snowed in in Worcester, Massachusetts, digging my car out every single morning before I had to teach, wishing I could move down south where it's warm and I can run all year round. Well, I got my wish, but then I sit here, sweltering, and complain. It seems to be true that people in general are never satisfied with what they have, always wishing for the "other side" of the road, the place where the "grass is greener." As the immortal Sheryl Crow put it, it "ain't having what you want, it's wanting what you've got."
It's sometimes a struggle to want "what we've got," especially in a culture that always wants more, different things all the time. We must "move up" in the world, get the newest gadget, have the nicest house, give our children what we didn't have. But what about what we did--and do--have? The things we never appreciate? William Blake writes about seeing "infinity in a blade of grass." And truly, if we look at that little blade of grass, we see a complex system requiring chlorophyll and sunlight, made up of infinite cells, each with its own molecules, inside of which are quarks...and the list goes on. Sort-of to infinity. Those Romantics were right about a lot of things, I think, yet we seldom stop and, literally, "smell the roses." Or take some time to think about what we're grateful for. So instead of complaining about the heat, I'll be grateful that I have a home with central air to which I can retreat. So few people in the world do. I'm grateful that I live in this beautiful place and can see palm and palmetto trees every day. I'm grateful for the SC peaches I've been snacking on, which I think are among the most delicious in the world (I hope you like them too). I'm grateful for my friend Irina, with whom we went to the Children's Museum today. I'm grateful that I have the summer off from teaching and can spend this precious time with you (I'm grateful to have a job to which I can return). And most of all, I'm grateful for you, who can sit there, in your diaper, and truly enjoy every new thing you see: every new color, texture, sound, shape, and taste. As Wordsworth put it, the "child is father of the man" (or, I might say, "mother"). We learn from little babies what is truly important and valuable in life.
So I would love for you to keep that curiosity, that joy, that desire to learn and to be amazed by the world in which we live. Enjoy everything and don't worry about moving ahead; just be happy to be here, to be alive, and to be loved. If I could give you anything, it would be contentment, an ability to live in the moment. So as we sit inside, I'd like to cherish this time instead of grumbling about it. I know that you do.