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A theory of moments (08/20/2006)
By Janet Lewis Burns

"Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry." - Henry David Thoreau, from "Walden"

Because enough is never quite enough, the "I want" syndrome has got us. We're duped by the powerful force of consumerism, accompanied by "high speed technology," and climaxed with "a substantial wage increase" requiring more hours on the job and less time and energy for personal matters, like family and R&R.

May I be melodramatic? In their natural settings, each tree is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Towering as canopies over rugged woodland paths, their protruding roots form stairways for the wanderer. (No escalators.) Stark contrasts to mega shopping arenas, one will not be taunted by price tags or stone-faced clerks here. There is no need for dressing rooms.

Early this July morning, during a treacherous heat wave, I find myself sitting a spell on a secluded beach surrounded by things of the forest. Lake Ojaski flutters calmly below, clucking against a slatted dock as fishing boats meander by.

"Prayer does not use up artificial energy, doesn't burn up any fossil fuel, doesn't pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does the dance." - Margaret Mead

Pat has disappeared through the leaves, sun's first rays on his back, to beat the torturing heat of midday. One cannot put a price on the solace he enters while out on the water, immersed in thoughts all his own, not so much fishing as contemplating.

I ponder as I hike, pausing to pick a stray flower here and there, to settle in a pool of shade on this manmade bench that someone deemed worthy to be here. (Gosh! Shouldn't I be worried about deer ticks!)

It's so easy to slip into the rut of fretting about tomorrow, or things that you have no control over, to dwell on the "what ifs," destroying the pleasures of the present. Does anyone live in the moment? Are we far too busy for such frivolities, preoccupied with making money, rubbing elbows with the prestigious, and tugged in all directions. Ain't it funny how time slips away!

When one, by ill health or circumstance, is forced to prioritize what they have enough energy for in a day's time, it's surprising how a lifestyle can be altered dramatically, leading to those "if tomorrow never comes moments."

I've often wished that I could retrieve all the time I once wasted on pointless busy work, scrubbing stained socks, putting on my public face, keeping the kids respectably clean (instead of enjoying them), and saying "not this time" more often. When moments turned into hours, that should have been my clue that volunteer work is not a profession. Hickory dickory dock!

A domestic engineer can dole out household duties and still be respected and adored by her family. Boys aren't in danger of growing up to be sissies if they do laundry and bake brownies. (Just better husbands.)

A husband won't fall apart if grocery shopping and vacuuming are left up to him occasionally. Young girls are capable of whipping up supper in Mom's absence. Everybody wants to feel needed.

One might assume that times we care for our two lively granddaughters might be overdoing it. Quality time with those delightful creatures makes for "majestic moments." Grandma and Grandpa have acquired a heart-full by what we've shared. A time to sow. A time to reap.

Responsibility has its moments too. Most of us in the real world can't retreat to youth or to the wilds indefinitely, but nothing can keep a nomad from wandering back from time to time, to forest, lake, hills, skies, or streams. If the day comes when one cannot escape physically...

...that forceful, steadfast "moment of remembrance" bring back the towering trees, blazing twilights over the lake, and little hands reaching.

Time speaks in minutes and hours. Memories are measured in moments.

Janet Burns has been a lifelong squatter in this neck of the woods. She can be reached at patandjanburns@earthlink.net 


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