Lower the Bar

Tryon Creek State Park

It was a day for sunlight, one of few in a streak of cool rainy days. I went looking for an infusion – of yellow sun and leaves, of warm, blue skies, optimism, breath, whatever the forest had to offer, I needed it and would gladly gather it up.

It was a day for watching the light; as it filtered through branches and leaves, danced with shadows in the slight breeze, reflected off gossamer spider webs, cast a glow on the changing leaves, and rippled and flickered on water, the trees and sky looking back up at me.

It was a day for quiet, a forest quiet so profound that I could hear the slight rustle as falling leaves landed on the undergrowth, a particular and tiny sound of their own.

It was a day to examine those gnarled above-ground tree roots that seem to work especially hard to keep their trunks upright. Perhaps there’s a lesson there, if I could figure it out.

It was a day for walking between trees that straddle the narrow path, and placing a hand on each, listening with my palms. I don’t hear them communicating the way folks say they do, but I’m comforted somehow, the rough spongy bark giving way beneath my fingertips, vital and moist.

It was a day for breathing in the forest’s particular scent of damp, of moss, creeks, tree bark, undergrowth, damp leaves along the path, all fecund, rich and alive.

It was a day for looking up, for getting away from down, from funk, from failure, from frustration, only seeing what I can’t do. I try to write, but I can’t. I try to not write, but I can’t do that either.

melancholy leaves me breathless.

Mary Oliver

I don’t know if trees expend a lot or a little effort to grow and thrive; their struggle is not apparent to me. What I do see is how we humans push so hard to achieve, accomplish, create, a contrast to the trees’ stillness. Amidst that forest calm my struggle seems rather ridiculous, perhaps futile. But maybe the will to create, to make, to push ourselves, is just part of being human. I’ll keep on, but if I can let go of pressure (internal), or judgment (my own), or haste (the world’s), then maybe I can let go of the suffering as well. I’m no Buddhist, but I think they have the right idea.

Ann Patchett says that low expectations are the secret for happiness, and the source of all her joy. Lower the bar and then you’re thrilled every day. I’m working on it.

Easy plant shadow ID!

10 thoughts on “Lower the Bar

  1. Oh, my friend. This was the perfect antidote for all that ails. Those feelings are familiar for many of us and I’m always glad for the reminder that fresh air, shadow and light, along with reasonable expectations can turn a day around. That last photo has me mesmerized. Is it time now for the beach?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful photos and writing. Lowering the bar and Ann Patchett – yes! Love this “It was a day for looking up, for getting away from down, from funk, from failure, from frustration, only seeing what I can’t do.” I think we can all use a little of that.


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