Summer: endless sunny days, rosy cheeks, no more wildly-flying-pigtails-while-airborne-into-puddles but the same peals and squeals of laughter are heard back-and-forth on the swing.
Once the harvest is in.
The barn after all needs to be filled. Winter, after all, will come round again.
An ancient maxim extols the virtue of work first, play later. But while the emphasis is indeed upon the sweat of our labor, enjoying the journey, reaping the benefits, is implied as well. Don’t shirk work, but don’t either downplay the importance of play. Today, tomorrow and the next – like slipping pearls on a string – each day, true enough, is to have its un-neglected duties, incrementally achieved, that add to the necklace but – just as important – it is R&R on the swing; digging clams on the beach with your son; flying kites or just dabbling your toes off the dock in the water or skipping rocks with whomever or even alone that add to the shine.
High up in the North Cascades I’m told there is a scrawled message at the terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail that stretches 2,663 miles from Mexico to Canada that reads something to the affect, ‘Never reach the end of your life only to discover you have not lived.’
John Henry Cardinal Newman expressed it similarly: “Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.”
My brother has hiked that trail from Lake Tahoe to the end. He killed and ate a rattlesnake in Northern California; slipped on a glacier and tumbled into the rocks breaking his wrist in Washington and – following the temporary splint provided serendipitously by a fellow-hiker that night who turned out to be a doctor trudging the opposite direction – kept on nonetheless for two more weeks finally celebrating the completion of literally mountains of memories.
Today we rowed together in a double, my brother and me. No records were set, it was only our second time – ever, in all of our sixty-plus years. He’s always been a kayaker, renowned in fact, and me a rower.
Today, swinging along in rhythm for the little bit of time our lungs allowed, sometimes just sitting out there where no one else was, laughing about good days gone by and those yet to come:
For these two brothers in a boat, the barn could wait.
Photo by our sister, Alice Nelson, who wrote:
“Spotted near Oysterville, WA. Reminds me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem, ‘The Swing’:
“How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!”
Joseph Boyle says
You have contributed a most artful and inspiring letter to this morning’s paper. Your sister’s photo is a marvelous visual addition to your words. I love it when I can read the words or look at a photo and understand the story either way.
David Anderson says
Thank you Joe.
Joan Campion says
David your well written, as usual, painting done with words was a refreshing pause in the morning. So nice.
David Anderson says
Thank you Joan.