Thursday, February 13, 2014

Watch For Falling Rocks

Dear Chloe,

Remember when we were driving to Acadia in Maine to go on a big camping adventure and we were almost there after driving six hours and I was flustered because I wasn't sure if we were going the right way? You were sitting in the front seat - just old enough, or maybe not quite even old enough to be there legally - and I asked you to help me navigate the way to our campground. You were so dutiful sitting there next to me, your eyes peeled for something  that might help me know I was on the right road, headed in the right direction.  You were new to the role of helper, and you took your job very seriously. You had been assigned the lookout job, but it was unclear exactly what I wanted you to watch for.

The ocean was in all its majesty on our left, and there was a steep incline - a mountain - on our right. The narrow road wound around in tight curves, slicing between contrasting sceneries. The ocean was vast and strong and light. It was indestructible and serene. The forest, on the other hand, was peppered with leggy pine trees swaying to and fro.  Their roots were exposed, and they clawed at the ground like white-knuckled fingers, trying to keep the trees upright despite the pitch of the mountainside.

I was demanding of you as I drove. "Pay attention. I need to know if we're going the right way! I'm not sure where we are! Help me out. Turn off the radio. Focus!" I snapped.  I was not that different from the pine trees - my roots were showing big time, and they were barely doing their job.  When you asked gently -the ocean- how you should help exactly, I barked back, "I don't know...look for signs!"

Signs of what or for what, you couldn't be sure, exactly. I could feel you trying to buckle down though, and be the kind of helper I needed.  You were taking this assignment I'd given you very seriously, and I had sent you a clear message that this was no time for fun.  You took a cleansing breath and focused, just like I'd told you to. We drove on, your senses alert. Your eyes searching for...something.

After a moment, much to your delight, you spotted something ahead that just might help us!  In the distance was a yellow seemed this might be your chance to offer some help and to be successful at your job. It was right around the next bend!  You did just what I had asked.  You found a sign! Slowly, it came into view. "WATCH FOR FALLING ROCKS!" you declared with pride. You smiled and looked to me for affirmation.

And then, all at once, the tension broke and together, we laughed and laughed.  By reading that sign's message out loud, and doing so with such an earnest effort to help, you uncovered something.

Watching for falling rocks is, by its very nature, absurd. Isn't it? Watch for falling rocks? If we're seeing them, aren't we a millisecond away from sure death (our own or the poor sucker who's in our line of vision)? And isn't peering up at the cliff waiting for a piece of it to break free, while you're driving, watching for falling rocks, kind of distracting and, well, dangerous? Isn't it also just a bit grim? As we laughed at the notion, some big things became clear.

When I think about it now, I like to pretend you got to be in charge of signage on that curvy, this-or-that road in Maine that lead to our camping trip adventure. I picture you putting big yellow caution signs all over the damn place! There'd be one around each bend.  But they wouldn't caution drivers against death by falling rocks. Nope. Your signs would alert people to "Watch for precious time!" or, "Watch for hidden gems of connection!" or even the sign that I really needed that afternoon: "Watch for hurt feelings!" I needed your signs that day.

You did something really important that day, and I'm grateful to you for it. There was  something about your generosity in wanting to help, something about the way you read that sign's message out loud as if it could be exactly the sign I'd been looking for and demanding you to find, something about your inexhaustible sweetness and optimism. It reminded me, if even for a moment, that I really don't want to watch for falling rocks in my life.

I hope you don't either. I hope you spend zero time searching for disasters that may or may not be looming in your life. Rather, keep a lookout for the adventures in life and the joy in your daily routines. Watch for connections with the people you love or who look up to you. Don't look above their heads just in case a boulder should flatten them; look right into their eyes. When you read that sign out loud that day, and then we giggled together, you reminded me to spend time watching out for joy, yes, but also for your feelings. Before we came to the sign, I should have been watching for a furrowed brow that might have indicated a deflating spirit.

Watching for falling rocks is stupid.

Find the beauty! Look for your passions! Search for hidden treasures! Uncover your joys! Don't spend one minute watching for falling rocks.  You reminded me that day, and today I'm reminding you. Stay on guard for the good things; they're everywhere.

I love you so much!

Love, Mom