How lucky I am to live in a country that protects and shares with its citizenry and visitors its natural treasures. In my whole life I shall not get to see all the wild places, but I am trying. These are my photos, capturing some of the bounty and splendor I have found. How lucky we are indeed!
Capitol Reef National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
St. Louis Arch National Gateway
Rocky Mountain National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Sequoia National Park
Gay Head, Maine
Cairns in Sedona, Arizona
Polynesia in Hawaii
Zion National Park
Big Horn National Forest
Acadia National Park
Sturgeon River, Porcupine Mountains, Michigan
Lake Michigan at Glen Haven
It didn’t have a universal name, until yoga. Some call it “burning the candle at both ends.” This may translate into frequent all-nighters, discipline and honest hard effort for the college student. Or for the athlete, it might mean stretching it out on the last mile of a long run, powering through when lungs feel as if they might erupt in flames. On the job it might translate into “leaving a legacy,” becoming the expert, being wildly creative, and appropriately aggressive, all for the purpose of being so good at your job that, if you left the position, it could not be so easily filled. For a parent it could mean digging deep for patience and calm when circumstances warrant exploding.
Education, exercise, employment, and parenting are areas where many come to know “the edge.” Interestingly, they each contain explicit goals that exist on the other side of prolonged, but necessary, discomfort.
Yoga’s edge is one that each must define for his or her own. One of my yoga teachers used to say “there are two kinds of students: the pushers and the coasters.” The pushers are the competitive ones, the ones who tend to go too deeply, the ones who hold out the longest through excruciating asanas in the hope that one day the full expression of an elusive posture (like samakonasana, better known as “the splits”) might be realized. For pushers, “the edge” becomes a means to an end. Coasters, on the other hand, do just that, coast. It might just be enough to move the body in the general direction of the posture. For them, the edge is no place to linger.
In yoga practice, working the edge requires an honest effort of neither pushing, nor coasting; knowing when to give more and when to step back, as either lack of progress or physical injuries reveal. Working “the edge” requires a fully present mind, and a willingness to make adjustments even when it means stepping back. And remembering that one solid headstand today, guarantees nothing tomorrow. Each practice must be met with an open mind: how will my practice be today? Where am I today? Behind each rolling out of the mat, is the promise that in this practice I will seek “the edge” as honestly as I can.
The most beautiful aspect of “the edge” is that it isn’t a static place; it is constantly moving. The truth of it lives in the gut and is very personal, where goal seeking gives way to wisdom and personal insight. Yoga is a process of evolution, a time of considerable internal work, a time to face the truth “as it is.” While it looks like it’s simply about negotiating and mastering difficult asanas, the greatest gifts that come from practice lie in cultivating the edge. Because if we can find tranquility there, imagine how it could translate in the real world. Imagine being able to call upon peace whenever and wherever it is needed.
If you had one year left to live…what would you do? How many of your precious few moments would you waste lamenting your misfortune? How many would you spend in fear of pain? How many would be depleted, wallowing in denial, being angry, bargaining with God, spiraling into depression, seeking miracle cures? How many until acceptance? How many precious few moments would remain if and when you came to acceptance?
It is impossible to know how anyone might respond to having just one year.
Many have less than that. Some are taken in an instant, lost to car accidents, heart attacks, the unpredictable. One minute there is life, the next there is void. Some have months before aggressive disease takes them from loving and grasping arms of family and friends. Some live with their dying for far too long, facing excruciating pain and the loss of each faculty, one-by-one, very, very slowly.
We just do not know the moment, the circumstances, the manner. But we know it is coming.
If you had one year left to live would you have the presence of mind and heart to make peace? Maybe with God first? Or with those you love? Or with those you don’t? Isn’t everything else meaningless?
Each moment does indeed count. Every exchange with another human being provides the opportunity—perhaps the last opportunity—to love completely.
It is far too easy to get caught up in our task-focused lives, until the loss of one we love reminds us…for a while. Don’t wait until there is precious little time remaining, make peace and make love and savor the beauty that is “relationship.” Just as we shouldn’t wait until Christmas to be generous, we shouldn’t wait until we are given a death sentence to live.
I love this photo of my parents.