Reality Reflection: Taking it Slow

We’ve arrived in June and one of the things that people used to really associate with summer were long rides off in the country. Now that’s something that people who ride bikes do more than those of us with cars, but many of us have a memory of being in the country on a road trip or just taking that Sunday drive. The thing that always awed and perplexed me was how there wasn’t necessarily always a destination. That people would just drive for a couple of hours, see whatever they saw and that was the whole point.

As I was thinking about long summer drives in the countryside I also got to thinking about how we move through stages of our lives. Sometimes we have seemingly little choice and it’s all thrust on us and we have to move quickly in a period of days or weeks or at most 6 months, while other times it seems like days are twice as long and years take decades to pass. But there’s a difference between things progressing slowly and choosing to move through things slowly and with care.

Sometimes the best thing is to take it one day at a time, to not plan a lot into the future, to work one small change into your life each week or month and slowly build on it, knowing that your future will be built on these small moments. Maybe we’ve got it wrong that we don’t do Sunday afternoon drives anymore or just laze by the lake. Maybe we need to build more of those slow tours into our lives rather than rushing and constantly trying to beat the clock. Maybe what we need most is the patience and willingness to stop and smell the roses rather than just focusing on a destination.

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Reality Reflection: The Animal Kingdom

I’m an animal lover. I always have been and I love whether I get to be in person with them or see them on TV or in a book or news story. I have a strong preference for dogs, but I do love all animals. I enjoy seeing them do what they do naturally in nature as well as the ways that they face and interact with the things we humans have created in the world. There does seem to be a disconnect between our needs and theirs, and our respect of their lives and their way of living, one that’s creating a crisis for them and their future.

In 1973 the Endangered Species Act was established to raise awareness about the millions of animals around the world that are at risk, threatened or endangered, and also do whatever is possible to help avoid extinction for them. Sadly some animals have gone extinct, although there are enough hidden corners still in our world that it’s possible that one day some of them may reappear and that they’re not actually extinct, just so rare they aren’t able to be found by humans.

So here’s the thing. I’m not a scientist, I can’t tell you exactly the scientific or ecological reasons that we need to have these animals on the planet, what their role is in keeping all of us alive and keeping our planet functioning as it does. But I can tell you that people have done the research and they have followed the path from the small insects to the big cats and everything in between and beyond, and they’ve shown that our lives and world would be very different if they weren’t here.

But the reason that I support and cheer for endangered species is because of how magnificent they are, how fully they live their lives and how much joy they bring to my life when I see them. I’m thankful for the men and women who are out there setting trap cameras so we can catch a glimpse of them, and especially fighting against the unnecessary and insensitive human takeovers. Everyone dies at some point in time, but I would hate to be the one who helped cause the death of an animal or a species just because I’m alive. I don’t think it’s a trade off, us vs. them, but I do think we need to be more conscious about the impact that our lives and choices have on theirs.

On this Endangered Species Day I encourage you to not only stand up for the important plants and animals of our world, but also to celebrate them. Which one or ones are your favorite?

Victories and Dependence

Dependence is an interesting topic, especially as it relates to victories. In many cases we’re dependent on something outside of ourselves to make a victory happen, whether the weather, availability or, most often, someone else. It can be frustrating because we’d like to just move forward and get to the victory, but few victories are possible without going through challenges, and those without challenge don’t seem like much of a victory.

Something we’re dependent on is the planet we all share. It can be hard to remember that we are on a planet or what’s beneath our feet each day because we see what we’ve built on it, how we’ve covered it and made it our own. And yet without that planet, the nature that grows from it, we would be dead. It’s hard enough when nature takes over for a brief while, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the earth falling apart around us like it does in some movies and knowing our days were very clearly numbered.

Yes, Earth Day is a good reminder (Earth Day was on Monday) but the fact is that the world is important every day to us, which is why we have to care for it. Doing something like donating to a company that helps with reforestation, saves endangered or critical animals, or make a conscious choice to choose the greener option the next time you’re making a purchase big or small, even if it costs a little more. That small investment can pay back in a big way for our planet and our future.

But back to the topic of dependence, you can’t get away from being dependent on at least one other thing for victories typically, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stack the deck in your favor by doing the research, having second and third plans, having people and resources you could tap into if the first options don’t work out, and especially being willing to take your time and make changes/roll with the punches without panicking. I believe just about all victories can be brought to fruition, they just depend on us to keep a level head, positive outlook and keep taking action to move things forward, even if it’s baby steps.  What will you do this week to gain more victories for yourself and the world we all share?

Exploring the Heart of Nature

I was recently reminded of a poem and thought I would share it with you today. It’s by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.”

For me this poem speaks to connection. It talks about our connection with the world and nature as well as how small of a part we have in that world. It encourages us to reconnect with the world that we live in: the ground that we walk and build and drive on, the trees and plants that shelter and feed us, and the quiet but true way that nature grows and changes over the years. It also reminds us of what people used to know, that nature is and should be our friend and we should enjoy connecting with it.

When was the last time you really spent time in nature? Maybe you will observe nature explode over the next few weeks from the allergy-free zones of your house or car, but I would encourage you to find time in the next short while to work on reconnecting with nature. People who spend time in nature often have naturally healthier immune systems, lower stress and feel better about themselves and life.  Getting out in nature is also a great way to connect with your neighbors, learn more about your community and meet new people (and dogs!).  What part of nature will you explore this spring?

A Celebration of Produce

The other day I commented to my partner how much I miss the summer. I love the summer for many reasons but one of the biggest reasons is because of all of the readily available produce. I love fruits and vegetables, and while I’m not a vegetarian, I definitely have more interest in produce than some. It’s something I regularly incorporate into my diet and into my partner’s as well, fortunately we both enjoy fruits and vegetables. Today I stopped in at one of my favorite food stores, a grocery store that is kind of like an indoor farmer’s market. It’s open all year and not only do they have great prices on produce, their produce is often better than what I see at many other grocery stores. It always makes me feel good to go there and I find it exciting and satisfying to fill up my refrigerator with lots of different fruits and vegetables.

Even though there are many baked/cooked dishes you can make with vegetables, and lots you can do with fruits, you still have to have a good source for them and you have to buy them. There’s definitely such a thing as seasonal produce, and living in a place that can have freezing temperatures throughout as many as 6 months per year means that if it were up to the location I live in I’d be eating canned (from a can at the store or homemade in mason jars) fruits and vegetables, or I’d have to have a greenhouse. But thanks to all of the sharing we do as a country and world, I’m able to have fresh (and tasty) strawberries, zucchini and peppers in February almost as conveniently as I do in the warm months.

As I was washing off some strawberries tonight I was reminded how thankful and blessed I am and we are. We’re able to tap into resources and people around the world to make our lives better and the future better for the next generation. I’m also thankful that God created the variety of produce that He did and as a result we’re able to have a choice in what we eat. It also feels good to eat foods that are good for the body that God has entrusted me with.

I know it may sound simple or silly to be thankful for strawberries in February, but why would God have taken the time to create each thing He did in the Garden of Eden if He didn’t want us to appreciate, enjoy or have a healthy respect for it? This week I would encourage you to open eyes to all that God has created, and appreciate the abundance He has given you.

In Awe of God

Recently I reread the words of Psalm 8:4–6 which say:

“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.”

When was the last time you were in awe of something?  Occasionally we’re amazed by someone or something someone says, but often it’s either fairly expected or cool but not a ‘wow’ moment.

I always find autumn and the tree color changes to be one of the more awe inspiring times.  Spring has lots of visual changes but I typically feel more excitement that we’re moving past piles of snow rather than awe over the new life.  But with autumn there are these pops of color that are so vivid and amazing that you just want to stare at them.

One of the other more awe inspiring experiences is when you go to the places that are away from the city lights and you can really see the true power of all the stars in the skies.  Sometimes in the city you’re able to see some stars or the moon will look spectacular, but you don’t really get a good understanding for how many stars are really out there until you’re able to be away from the lights of the city and they’re able to shine.  It’s a truly incredible experience.

One of the other experiences that people say is awe inspiring is witnessing the birth of your child.  There’s something powerful about seeing this little being appear, after 9 months of growth hidden away with only tiny glimpses, with all 10 fingers and toes and looking like a miniature version of their parents or extended family.

There may not be a lot of awe-inspiring moments in our lives, so it’s so important to celebrate and recognize those moments when they happen.  What was your most recent awe-inspiring moment?

What’s Beautiful Isn’t Always Good

This week I was reading about a project that’s been ongoing for more than a decade to remove a group of dams from a river. The picture that was included was a shot of the river as it goes over the dam (a short one, not like the Hoover Dam or the height of Niagara Falls). It looked peaceful and beautiful and I had a moment of ‘why remove something that’s in working order and looks good’? But then I read into the article and they listed some really good reasons as to why the dams should be removed and the hurt that they’re doing to the river. Yes, dams can serve one or more of several important purposes, but this article was a reminder that along with serving the purpose, sometimes there’s damage that goes along as well, and a choice has to be made as to which is more important.

Which got me thinking about dams and about our lives as well. Often we have to make similar big decisions regarding our lives. Sometimes it’s something you can do for a bit or make a choice without creating a permanent result, but other times it’s a very serious decision to make that regardless of the decision you choose will create an irreversible result. It’s not wrong to make a permanent decision, but it’s a very good idea to really consider things from all angles before committing.

It’s one reason why it’s important to consider multiple possible options before committing to something, regardless of how good it sounds initially.  It’s also a good reminder of how important it is to look below the surface, and that there’s always a second side to the story.  I saw a beautiful dam and waterfall in the article, they saw multiple things that aren’t healthy or could improve both nature and human life.  It’s not that I encourage you to look for the bad, but to look for what’s the best option, and not limit yourself to only considering one.