Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Year's Resolution #3 - Get Dirty

When I was in college, they called me "Nature Boy." I had an adverse reaction to pavement. I would never walk on the sidewalks. This is true.

It wasn't exactly a conscious endeavor on my part. I just found myself off the beaten path (well, pavement) en route to another building in the middle of the day, or heading towards chapel as the sun was tipping over and spilling its liquid light over the horizon. Then a guy would yell out, "Hey Thoreau! See any slate colored juncos lately! Ha hah!" ... and stuff like that. I'd just smile and keep on.... meandering.

Just yesterday, I was contemplating the sad fact that I don't wander as aimlessly as I used to. I travel from Point A to Point B.... POW! Mission accomplished. I'm running over concrete towards a linoleum floor, then back to the asphalt for the ride home. At the illustrious private boys school where I teach, the students are not allowed to walk on the grass because, get this, this would make the grounds "unpleasant" to look upon. You see, when you walk on grass a lot, it goes away.

Remember that image of Chief Iron Eyes Cody looking out on a sprawling modern mess of pollution, and a single tear runs down his ancient face? I loved that commercial! How far we've come from that respect for the land, from that love of the earth in all it's beauty. Who doesn't feel refreshed at the scent of spring rain, rich soil, fallen leaves, and the thick, warm breath of a garden or greenhouse crammed with life?

This Christmas, Santa got me a new pair of shoes (is that a song?). Oh they're nice. All leathery and cushiony, great for standing on your feet all day teaching too. Smithsonians or something. The other day I was walking around campus and I felt the call to wander up the hill and along the path that circles Malvern. Like Sirens, those countless hours growing up in the pine woods of south central Jersey, the hikes, the walks, the ritual journey into the silence and the serenity of the cranberry bogs and cedar creeks of Browns Mills was whispering to me, tapping me on the shoulder with long flowery fingers.

Why do we choose a hard, slick, "artificial" surface when God has designed a soft, grassy carpet for us.

The Road goes ever on and on, Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.
- J.R.R. Tolkien

I think the sign of a happy soul can be found on the sole. So let's walk today, away from the things of man, and when duty calls, go back again.... but take the long way!

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