Going for walks with my dog these last few weeks still fills my heart with a mysterious gladness.
Snow. The way it covers trees, the way it piles up on the edges of paths, the way it feels, the way it sounds, the way dog pees shows up on it and beckons all the other dogs to come smell it and add to it – snow makes me feel like a child. Not a worry in the world. Not thought to the possibility that your hands will get cold or your feet will get wet. The first time I ran into proper snow in Sweden, I ran out wearing rain boots. A thing swedes later laughed at. And days later I went out in flip flops. Both times my feet froze but I didn’t really care. I now take gloves with me because of the dog. But. I love snow.
I understand that I could learn what snow is. How it comes to be. Why last year there was almost none and this year there is a perfect amount. I could learn about why some trees hold snow and some let it fall to the ground. Why dogs love jumping in it even when its minus degrees and their little feet start hurting.
But I don’t understand those things. I have no idea of the whys and hows of snow. I just love it. And the mystery surrounding snow fills me with gladness.
In mid 2009, I spent a week on a goat farm in the depths of the forests on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. Our jobs were to clean the goat pens, to destroy an old goat pen and stack the wood at one side, to play games at night with the grandma who, like me, had a massive rats tail in her hair and plant the beans. Whilst planting the beans one day, I saw the most beautiful scene of my entire life that I was unable to photograph and would not have even if I could. It had started raining so our planting routine went from using our hands to push the beans into the ground to, making a hole with our feet, dropping beans. Covering it with the other foot. And as the rain got heavier, a fog arrived over the trees the surrounded our treehouse sleeping arrangements up the hill. I stopped and stared. In front of me were my friends and co-bean planters spread out on the field. Then pineapple bushes (google them if you have never seen them) then the trees with our houses amongst them covered in foggy mists, then above that were the lower hills with other houses and farms on them, and then higher up a huge mountain that disappeared into the rain clouds.
It was straight out of an art exhibition or a scene from a well shot movie. So many beautiful images glued into one, and I got to see it all. Soon after we decided that we were too soaked to the bone to continue and we returned to the warmer houses up in the trees and ate and laughed the night away.
Again, I don’t know how rain works, or mountains. I don’t understand why epic big things make my heart feel like that. But I love mountains and forests and mists. They are beautiful and refreshing to behold. They have parts of mystery and they have parts of knowing but still being impressive for me. Its glorious.
I want life to be enough of a mystery that I am constantly brought to a stand still of awe. I am regularly brought to awe in the mornings. I wake up and look at my wife and think “She is beautiful, and we get to do life together”. We get up and I take the dog for a walk and things about this city, things about its people, its design, its textures make me think “I know not much of the back story of this but… this is awesome”.
I think awe can bring us back to honesty and humility. I think a sense of impressedness allows for a slower, more honouring action. I think appreciating the glory in others and moments and places allows for an otherness, a decentring (decentering? woah. my Australianness wants to spell centre but with “ing” haha.).
A decentring that allows for empathy, selflessness, celebration. Even of things we don’t understand. Because I have found that if I am the centre. If everything needs to revolve around me. Enjoyment has a cap.
Or does it?
What of a rollercoaster that flips and spins in its attempts to be so decentred that it gets exhausting…..