Sunday, December 1, 2013

one little leaf

I rode this morning with a beautiful tailwind pushing me up the canyon.  the skies were unsettled and gray, letting sunshine through in moments of whim, and the temperature in shaded places was moistly cold, in the forties, sending the occasional shiver across my skin.  piles of leaves sat against the grasses that lined the road edges, brown and crisp, hovering together in packs created by earlier winds.  random leaves blew across the road before me and at times I could see tall grasses beside the road bend forward with the wind from behind.
I approached a large pile of leaves where, a few inches above the rest, a leaf was tossed and fluttered by the wind, wanting to be swept away, but tangled, somehow, and unable to leave its pile.  as I drew closer I could see that it was still attached to a tiny branch that had landed in the pile of leaves, and as I passed I could hear its frantic beating against the other leaves on its twig and against the twig itself.
the wind tried to take that leaf, but the leaf was caught, stuck, unable to blow free.

lately I've been thinking a great deal about change.  the book I'm writing is ostensibly about wolves, but in truth, it's more about humans and how we deal with change.  we, as a species, seem challenged by the changes that surround us and worm their way into our lives.  few of us welcome change, and even when we do welcome in a change we often find ways to sabotage or despair of it within a short amount of time.  many of us find a comfortable spot and want to stay there, whether it be in our opinions, our physical routines, or the way we move through the world.

today I was riding up toward big mountain.  I didn't know if the road would be clear all the way to the top, but I suspected most of the asphalt would be visible due to the warmish, dry weather we've had for the past two weeks.  I wasn't physically eager to ride all the way to the top, but was pulled by my emotions, wanting to ride up big mountain on december first, possibly the last time for the year as we're expecting a storm in two days.  as I neared the beginning of the climb, I thought about riding only until I encountered snow all the way across the road.  because of the switchbacks and the trees that shade portions of the road, there are usually snowy spots that cover stretches of road, which if one walks one's bike across, are only mild barriers on a mostly dry road.  I have always been one to walk my bike over snow if there's visible dry pavement on the other side.
today, though, I considered stopping and turning around the first time I encountered a snow-covered road.  some fellow cyclists have a rule that they never walk across snow to continue up a canyon:  it's their method of respecting the season.  today, I thought of this and decided it might be time for me to adopt their rule.

fingers of snow stuck into and across the road half a dozen times before I came to the spot, a kilometer from the top, where snow covered the road for a good twelve or fifteen feet, after which bare asphalt was visible again.  I paused, and unclipped.  I stood there contemplating a change in how I approach snowy roads.  I decided that I might just adopt a new rule, a rule that respects the changing season.  I pulled on my wind jacket and changed into my lobster gloves, and turned around to ride back home.

some changes are easier than others.  the behavior I exhibited today speaks of a medium-size change, from crossing all barriers to reach a goal to revising a goal in flowing with what's presented to me.  it's something I've considered for some time---it's not a one time event.  I've pushed through obstacles and impediments for as long as I can remember, believing that honoring one's goal is important, and that if at all possible, it's good to push through those roadblocks that confront us.
today's acceptance of a snow-block--a physical representation of the word no--is new for me.
and I like it.
I like to think that I'm letting the natural world guide my behavior.  I'm ready for this change.

but many of us, in many situations, are like the leaf on that little twig.  we feel the change offering itself to us, we might even want to break free and follow it, but we're stuck, glued to whatever it is that holds us in place.  habit, complacency, fear, whatever it might be, we are unable to move along in a new direction.  a new direction in thought, in belief, in action: these are sometimes demanded of us by life, and the sooner we hop on board the better off we are.
to never change is to be static, to be unvarying, to be stalled.  and just as wolves are returning to our landscape here in the west after an absence of almost a century, newness beckons at us every day.  it is our task to listen and learn, to become more aware, and to adjust how we behave in the world.

like all of us, that leaf on that little twig will eventually become again a part of the earth.  but what if, before it did so, it was allowed to follow the wind and have a final, thrilling, unpredictable wild ride?

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