How Bad Do You Want It?
It's a delicious 75 breezy degrees, at the end of a long work day, sun shining around and through the bright, brand-new spring green leaves of every tree I pass as I drive responsibly home. I've been in a windowless office for 9+ hours, my head filled with the echoes of discussions from meetings, and some rather emotionally intense conversations with volunteer applicants. I've used every accessible part of my brain to plan, to actively listen, to synthesize ideas. I've sent print jobs to the copier repeatedly and retrieved them, loaded my car with supplies and interoffice mail to take to Columbus, and restocked bins in the storage room. Foot on the gas pedal, a persistent thought pulls me forward: Get to the woods. Get to the Hill. I can easily picture in my mind how that sun looks as it dapples its way through the black walnuts and cherry saplings that line the path up the Hill to the west...all cool and ready to soak up the day's tension with different shades of green, a noisy mish-mashed chorus of robins and catbirds to take the image over the top.
But I'm really tired, bones and limbs aching for a good lie-down and no thinking at all. If I want what awaits me on that Hill, I've gotta walk about 2000 FitBit steps to get there. It seems as far away as it is beautiful. I push away the new contrasting thought that has popped up like an annoying Whack-A-Mole, competing for my attention: A nap sure sounds good, doesn't it, honey? Just you and the recliner, bingeing on Frasier via Netflix. C'mon, you can walk later. Talk about a battle for my soul. I roll down the car window as the front tires meet the gravel-y edge of our driveway and let the breeze make the decision for me--little tired feet, we're walkin'.
What needs to happen next is clear: open the door to the house, keep my head down and don't look at the socks that landed where Patrick peeled them off his tired little feet last night, and sure as heck don't go into the kitchen to put away those dishes in the drainer. Just head right to the bathroom, change into your after-work leggings and t-shirt from off the hook on the back of the door, slip on socks and your chicken boots, and keep moving out the door to the mudroom. Oh, and stop by the potting shed to get the lopers--if we're gonna walk to the Hill, might as well cut back those multiflora rose stalks that laughed at me the last time we had a trimming session. I'm out the door and greeting the chickens pecking ticks out of the grass where Patrick was just splitting wood two days ago. Whew--that was close.
Walking down the wide path towards the woods, I can feel the day's meetings and critical thinking evaporate, surrendering to the early evening sunlight. I'm still tired, but less so, both mentally and in my muscles as the Hill gets closer and Excel spreadsheets get farther away. Two thousand steps later, I stand on the path in the middle of the sacred grove of mockingbirds, and exhale.
Anything good and worth having requires us to work for it.
This isn't new. I know from experience the rewards that await me when I fold the footrest of the recliner back into place, and cross the distance between the living room carpet and line of trees to the west. The view through our front screen door is charmingly framed, and beckons every day, most enticingly. Half of the mulberry tree is visible, a vintage camper birdhouse hanging from one of the delicate branches. Behind that is the next row of black walnuts, then even taller sycamores (I know the creek is down there somewhere), and finally the infinite blue sky. When I choose the wide expanse of that sky over the comfort of the recliner, I'm glad, every single time, and a bit sheepish--how could I have even struggled with such a choice? The fresh breeze combing each strand of my hair, silken threads of spider webbing lightly stretched across the tips of grass blades beneath my bare feet. How could any seat in the house compare to this?
But compare and compete they do, and so the sometimes brief, sometimes prolonged back and forth debate continues: inside or outside? Certainly, the weather influences what option I pick. I've got too many winter coats, scarves, pairs of boots, and thick gloves. I'd be well-insulated if I ventured out on cold days. And draped there on the arm of the couch is the most buttery of flannel quilts, and I cave. One quilt is easier to put on and take off than all of thrift store-acquired L.L. Bean gear that almost match each other. The framed view from the front door will be fine. After all, I've also got two front windows with bird feeders in clear sight. I'll suit up and be out in it tomorrow, I promise. Tomorrow never comes, though, does it?
For me, the choice has deeper impact than just comfort. Each day here is an unrepeatable carnival of movement, color, and evolution, as the seasons slide seamlessly into one another. 19 years later, we've collected indelible images of nature at its best (the only time nature is truly at its worst is when it inconveniences us, right? Viewed without that bias, nature is glorious always), and I know, intimately, the difference in my soul when I choose to be a participant rather than a spectator. I understand there's a cost--convenience vs. quality. Once-in-a-lifetime views vs. regret. The computer will most likely outlive the meadow. And the land will never look this way again. I'm a fool when I forget that.
I can't recall now, as I write this, the weight of that 9+ hour day. It's gone, and I take off my chicken boots in the mudroom, pulling together the list of ingredients for tonight's dinner. Resisting the siren call of Frasier reruns and footrest has cleared a path for other important thoughts, even those as simple as food, and I feel lighter in spirit, not tired, calmer.
Meanwhile, on the path by the woods, there's a patch of wild strawberries growing bravely among the poison ivy. In a few weeks, I'll teeter briefly on the sharp edge of decision, empty yogurt container in my gloved hands.