Chalet L’Abri, July 2005, Measuring My Days…acg
June I once more returned briefly to the North Carolina Cape Hatteras seashore.
Walking for miles along the beach I watched dolphins at play undulating offshore, marveled at pairs of monogamous phalaropes
skipping the waves, and stopped long enough to attend an evasive ballet of sandpipers.
My thoughts recalled so many other seashores where I had been on this ‘big blue marble’ spinning its magic
path through the Milky Way. Gathering the ocean’s far horizon and the sky
with its billowing cumulous clouds in one giant perspective, in my reveries I was again at sea aboard the containership Cho Yang Atlas pondering the incomprehensible vastness of the universe. Go stand at the seashore if you want to get a proper perspective of your pygmy self in the greater Kingdom
I took with me Phillip Simmon’s insightful memoir, Learning to Fall,
subtitled The Blessings of an Imperfect Life.
Stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) when he was just 35, Simmons’ journal examines life in the face
of his knowledge of failing physical abilities and of his certain early demise. Fittingly,
the book’s cover portrays a maple tree branch in winter with a single leaf still clinging there. Each essay title is likewise marked with a lone maple leaf portraying another lesson extracted from living
with limited moments. This is my second reading, each page savored for its measure
of wisdom and courage. “Who among us gets to dictate the terms of his or
her good fortune?” he writes. “We’re not in charge here….For
how many of us has life turned out to be exactly what we had in mind?…Life throws things at us that we cannot predict
and cannot control. What we can control is who we are along the way….We
can control how much energy, compassion and integrity we bring to our journey…. We all have within us this capacity
for wonder, this ability to break the bonds of ordinary awareness and sense that though our lives are fleeting and transitory,
we are part of something larger, eternal and unchanging. You see, we really are
all in this together…. There are times when the fact that we are in different
bodies, or have lived in different centuries, or that some of us have died while others live on or are yet to be born, seems
a trivial difference compared to what unites us and abides. Our journey takes
us to suffering and sorrow, but there is a way through suffering to something like redemption, something like joy, to that
larger version of ourselves that lives outside time….Some of us go willingly to the edge, some of us are driven to it,
some of us find ourselves there by grace. But all of us get there at some time
in our lives, when through the gateway of the present moment we glimpse something beyond.
And when we do, may we open ourselves to wonder, may we surrender to the mystery that passes understanding, may we
find ourselves at the threshold of this eternal life.” .” Reviewing
the book, Balfour Mount wrote that it “is for anyone who loves life – or needs to love it more.”