July 11, 2023

Damn, that’s green!


Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.

-W.B. Yeats


June has been a strange month.  There were some very hot days in May, with temps in the nineties, but June has been mild.  Every morning, Waldo and I get up early and go for our six-mile sortie into the woods, not because we need to beat the heat, but because we can.  Sometimes, when we start, it’s a bit chilly for me in my shirtsleeves, but Waldo, in his sable birthday suit, is quite comfortable.  Before we’re done, though, I’m sweating and Waldo is dropping sticks so he can pant.  It makes for a very pleasant walk.

Mother Nature is fully greened-out now.  We’ve had a good amount of rain, which has helped, and early summer has arrived.  I have some favorite places along the trail, mainly because the density of trees and bushes provides a good amount of shade, but also because the verdant atmosphere is somehow welcoming and comforting.  It feels kind of like coming home.  But the trail really has no places that aren’t surrounded by foliage, moss or grass.

As we walk along, we come across a busy street and Waldo stops and sits, waiting for me to tell him it’s okay to proceed.  Cars come by and their drivers are waving at us to cross.  “I’m training the dog,” I say in response and wave them on.  There is a waving competition that goes on for a while, the goal being to be the one that persists in waving the longest, but I always win.  I have it in my mind that if Waldo ever gets loose and tries to cross a street, then he will, from habit, stop and wait for cars to pass before he proceeds.  Will it work?  I dunno, but it can’t hurt.

One of the things that seems to be different about getting older is that I now have this insatiable urge to pass on important lessons I’ve learned along the way.  I suppose some of this is biological in origin, since human offspring develop so slowly and need to be cared for by their parents for so long.  Especially in today’s complex world, there is so much that needs to be learned before an individual can function on his own.  So, my impulses to teach aren’t directed only at Waldo, but also at my grandchildren.  Sadly, neither is very interested in listening, though.

There were so many struggles I went through as I was growing up that I really would like to talk to my grandchildren about.  Not as entertaining stories, at least not all the time, but to pass on important insights so they won’t have to learn them on their own.  Like, we are our own worst critics and hold ourselves back more than anyone else.  I remember well, at a young age, being afraid of failure and causing that failure by not trying very hard in school — I wouldn’t do all of my homework or read everything assigned.  The subliminal thought was, I could always say that I didn’t really fail because I never really tried.  At some point, I figured out that was bass-ackward.  If I really tried at some activity and failed, then it only meant that I just wasn’t born with what was required to perform that activity and it was by no fault of mine.  I also discovered that if I approached an endeavor with the attitude of, I will just see what I can do, without the conviction that there is a limit to what I can do, I could do more than I ever dreamed was possible.

I watch my grandchildren struggling and my heart goes out to them because so much of their pain is self-inflicted.  I, too, went through what they are going through, but made it to the other side.  Why can’t I just save them the trouble and tell them the secrets of how to do it so they don’t have to struggle?  Somehow, it just doesn’t work that way.

But then, I’ve found out that at least some of it does leak through the fog of growing up.  Decades after telling my daughter something, she has come up to me and said, “You know, I remember when you told me…”  I had no idea she was even listening.  So, maybe, there is some of what I have to teach that is being learned.

Waldo and I continue on our way and soon are amongst the ferns and moss.  A cool breeze carries the happy songs of birds going about their daily business.  A musty scent of damp earth wafts our way and the shadows of leaves dance on the ground in synchrony with the wind sighing in their branches.  Squirrels chase each other through the bushes and insects buzz around us.  I don’t need to teach Waldo the essential importance of all this.  He already knows.

I just wish I could pass it along to all those who are too busy to bother.


Gates to the Green Wood.

Leave a Reply