Ferris Bueller said life goes by too fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you just might miss it. I wondered if maybe “once in a while” just isn’t enough. We put so much emphasis on weekends and annual vacations we drain the fun and spontaneity out of them in an attempt to Get It All In. Jimmy Buffett called that “trying to cram lost years into five or six days.” So I wondered, what would happen if I just took five minutes every morning to stop and reflect? I mean, I’m going to drink coffee anyway. What if that was all I did?
As I looked out at a scene that would inspire a more artistic person to grab some paints and channel their inner Bob Ross, I found my mind wandering around in my itinerary. I wasn’t in my office, but I may as well have been. Calendar in my face, bank of phones on my right and Neverending Stack of Stuff on the left, waiting to be attended. I tried my best to look out at the river and focus on Nothing. To just let myself be … but I couldn’t. It was peaceful, but I was not at peace.
Just as I sipped the last bit of joe in my mug, a massive silvery-blue water bird flew right past my upstairs balcony, landing gracefully in the water on the far side of the trees that wall one section of my yard off from the water. It was startling, both in beauty and in the intrusion. The flash of wings shattered my work-related mental meanderings. Nature had captured my attention, but now it was time to go to work.
Today, I felt a little more relaxed. After a long day and a late night working, the coffee was more lifeline than luxury. Yesterday, I was so distracted I didn’t hear much of anything. This morning I have birds singing in one ear, and my kids playing in the other. There’s less noise in my mind. More happy thoughts. I actually caught myself singing. Not long into my time on the porch, my four-year-old came out and sat next to me. “I’m going to put my head on your lap,” he said. So, we snuggled. Knowing those days are numbered made this that much more precious. Soon, his big brother came out and sat next to us. After a brief brotherly ‘discussion’ about who would sit where on the swing, they were quiet.
Had to skip a few days, because work came on in a rush. Happens like that sometimes in my business. Between politics, natural disasters, human foibles and acts of God, schedules can be fluid things. Sitting out on the balcony this morning the river was high and rushing fast. Had a Tropical Storm pay a visit this past weekend, and the water’s always highest a day or so after the rain. Sitting up there safe on the second floor it’s easy to feel disconnected from the fury of nature, but the past few days I was out in it, when just getting A to B was hazardous. I saw plenty of cars failing to float, auditioning for the crusher. Most just abandoned, a few newly flooded, stranded drivers now unwilling pedestrians.
As my mind wandered, contemplating how raw and merciless nature can be, my four-year-old came out on the porch, cup of cocoa in hand, and curled up beside me. For him, Dad is Ultimate Safety. Curling up next to me keeps all storms at bay. One day life will dispossess him of this notion, but, thankfully, not today.
Today was a tough one. Current events in the country I love have encroached on these few peaceful moments. Recently, a credentialed reporter was arrested for doing her job. When the local prosecutor, clearly in the pocket of an oil company, realized he couldn’t make the first charges stick, he changed them, arbitrarily, in naked obedience to his corporate masters. Meanwhile, one of the two leading candidates for President continued his diatribe against the First Amendment in general and journalists in particular. Candidate Trump is on the record with his plans to criminalize journalism by executive order.
When a self-professed member of the very same oligarchy that jailed Amy Goodman promises to use executive fiat to transform journalism into criminal activity, is it any wonder that no publication in the country has endorsed him? It’s troubling to me that even staunchly conservative papers who haven’t endorsed a Democrat in decades, some in more than a century, can come out strongly in favor of a candidate they clearly despise, and supporters of the other guy don’t even blink. Are we that far gone? So disconnected that events rarer than Halley’s Comet create no interest?
Woke to another cool breeze this morning. A full inbox and a heavy heart. Need these few peaceful moments today more than ever. The river flows in its languid, tannic oblivion, as it has for centuries. The tides pay little attention to the worries of those scurrying around on the shore and even less to those high above, looking down from a porch swing. The waters around and beneath Florida are rising, a fact my septic guy knows, but my governor ignores … there’s a lesson there.
It’s a lesson lost on the guys who are currently laying pipeline beneath the water that feeds some of our most important springs. We need energy, but we also need clean drinking water. Florida is unique. A mistake here, as happened a month ago in Alabama, could be catastrophic. But, when you read the reports about that “state of emergency”, the headline is the price of gas, not the lack of clean water. That’s high-priced, professional level disconnect right there.
Here in Florida, where we don’t even know what hydraulic fracking will do to our fragile karst limestone, all it would take is one bad batch of concrete—just one—to do incalculable damage. As I look out on the river, I’m reminded of warnings I heard growing up, skiing on the same river. How we shouldn’t even swim in those waters due to industrial pollution and chemical runoff. A massive cleanup was undertaken, massive in both cost and time. After more than two decades and who knows how much manpower and money, the river is cleaner … but the cycle continues elsewhere.
For decades, Florida authors have been ringing the bell of warning as they watched the state they loved succumb to those who only want to exploit the sunshine. Read JD MacDonald today and the Harvard-educated pulp fiction writer appears a prophet. His is not the only voice crying out in the wilderness. Many who love that wilderness have joined him. I think, maybe, spending time Out There is the only way to remember what’s really important.
Where’s my hiking stick?
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