October 13, 2010


Saturday, it was raining when I left for my walk in the park, neither a gentle rain nor a downpour. The drops were hard enough to form bubbles in the puddles and I stood for a while watching them expand then burst and form again in what seemed a never ending pattern. One bubble grew to enormous size and I marveled that Nature seemed to take no pride in her work but allowed it to dissipate the same as bubbles of lesser note. There’s a metaphor for life in that observation, but I’ll not go there. I’m headed in a different direction.

As it was raining, I had the park almost to myself, a lovely peace interrupted occasionally by dog walkers and their thoroughly wet animals. I smiled into the hollows of the hooded faces as they passed but received no acknowledgement.  They were busy staring at their feet, alert for puddles.

At the west end of the park, I came across a group of seniors, sensibly dressed in rain togs, pursuing tai chi exercises with their teacher. I stopped to watch for a minute or two. Though it may not look it, tai chi is a strenuous exercise that requires the mind and body to work in harmony. I tried it for a time before my hip surgeries. Now I find the joy of walking is enough.

I was on my way home and approaching the east end of the park when I came upon a second gaggle of exercisers. This group I’d seen before, young mothers with their baby prams or strollers beside them. Despite the rain, these women were scantily clad in shorts and tee shirts, their hair falling in rivulets as water dripped down their faces. Their babies were well bundled against the elements, I noticed.

I thought it a curious sight, these mothers braving the elements in their quest for fitness, while 200 yards away a set of seniors did the same, though facing the elements in a different manner of dress. What did it say about the generations?  Certainly, it said as we grow old we become more cautious. Is that a good thing or a bad thing, I wondered?

As I walked home, I thought about the bubbles, large and small, that over time proved to be equally impermanent and of the cautious seniors and their young counterparts. These people, whatever their age, are bubbles too. They come, they go and their manner of dress is irrelevant. I asked myself again, “Does Nature take no pride in her work? Is there nothing she would save?” And then it occurred to me that the unlike dog walkers or myself, Nature takes no interest in individual bubbles. Its horizon is broader. It invited me to consider the possibility of viewing the world with the optimism of youth and the wisdom of age. Together these perspectives make life richer.   

For wonderful thoughts on lessons Nature can teach, I recommend Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea, first published in 1975.