I ask you to forgive my absence from this page over the past several weeks, gentle readers.  The extreme heat and other pressures of life began to overwhelm me, and as is so often the case, I retreated into the relative safety of my little world, which has recently revolved around health and canning nature’s bounty and, of course, finishing the requisite changes to my thesis.

But, last night, I had a sort of epiphany.  Part of that epiphany recognized that the times when the world overwhelms is absolutely the right time to express that feeling through the written word.  And the other flash of understanding I will attempt to illustrate through parable.

When the weather becomes unseasonably warm, my thoughts inevitably clang like a clapper to the side of a bell, pealing out negative thoughts regarding the havoc we are wreaking on this poor planet.  No matter how I try to lift my spirits, the resounding knell of global warming rattles my bones, and at these times, I despair of mankind, assiduously proclaiming to anyone who will listen that even a dog knows not to crap where it eats.

The heat at Long Point was so extreme last week that my poor canine boy was unable to traverse the scorching sand to reach the cool of the lake unaided.  Halfway there, he began to limp, then his hind legs literally buckled under him from the pain of his burning foot pads.

This is exactly the sort of scenario which causes me to plummet into a downward spiral, and the apex of this slippery slope is the following limiting thought:  “This is awful.  This has always been awful.  This will always be awful.  Forever and forever, without the amen.”

But being reasonably stoic, at these times I remind myself of a tale brought down through history in the writings of the Eastern mystics.

The story tells of a village which was overrun by the army of a feudal king as he plundered and conquered far from his own lands.  This lord had given the order that the villagers should be put to death, but, being of a whimsical nature, he bowed to their pleas for mercy, offering them this challenge.

“I will spare your lives,” the king said, “if, by this time tomorrow, you give me a very special gift:  a gift that will make me sad when I am happy, and happy when I am sad.”

At first, the villagers were struck down by despair.  How could they comply with this strange request?  What gift could possibly achieve what seemed impossible?

But their wisest elders and their craziest fools joined forces, and at the appointed hour, they approached the king, bearing a small, plain box.

When the king opened the box and saw the villagers’ gift, he was filled with awe at the perfection of it, and holding it high in the light of the new day, the sun shimmering off its surface, he immediately ordered their release.

The gift was a silver ring on which was inscribed, “And this, too, shall pass.”

Last night, I stood outside in my backyard orchard, gazing at the stars, set like jewels in a cobalt sky, and felt the first cool caress of autumn on my bare arms.  “This awful heat may come back,” I thought, “will certainly be back next summer, but in this present moment, I know in my soul that it is just now, and not forever.”

Whatever the joy, comfort, anguish, confusion of an instant, the only certainty is that it, too, will soon pass.  Surely the secret, then, is to fully inhabit every moment; to embrace every aspect of this divine comedy we call life, secure in the knowledge that each tick of the clock brings with it a transition into a new experience.  It is the accumulation of these moments and experiences that make us who we are, and since we are all on our own perfect journeys to becoming our fullest selves, whatever the moment holds is, in itself, a silver circlet of fleeting perfection.

So today, I give myself this hero(ine)’s challenge:  I will slip the king’s ring on my finger, and try to encounter every one of life’s moments fully.

And make no mistake, the ring is there, patiently waiting for the present moment in which you choose to grasp it in your palm and allow it encircle your life.

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