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Wednesday, February 27, 2019


I have told the story before about the very first time I came to see the home I currently (and for the past ten years) have lived in.  I had authorized my husband to purchase the place sight unseen (by me) because after what felt like an endless and fruitless search I had finally honed in on what appeared to be the perfect offering on  My husband and our realtor scheduled an appointment post haste and when they reported back that is wasn’t a lemon, I made the snap decision to make a full price offer and put the nightmare of house shopping behind us; it was a calculated risk, yes, but I trusted my instincts and it paid off.

However, ten years ago smartphones weren’t really a thing and GPS was optional, so my husband trusted Google maps to direct us on our first visit together (DON’T.  EVAH.) and we ended up on this creepy little backroad that was hardly more than a path;  when the chickens and goats crossed in front of us, I openly began weeping.  Ah, memories!  Anyhow, like I said, it turns out we live in a perfectly lovely neighborhood with perfectly lovely neighbors and the chickens and goats are more flavor than template.

In the many years that have passed, my life therapy/exercise has drawn back to that fateful road on a daily basis.  Now an overgrown and muddy trail, it is still favored by walkers, runners, bikers, and ATVers; this has caused many deep wells to be impressed in the mud which are then graciously filled with snow and rainwaters by Mother Nature. In the spring it is a fertile breeding ground for frogs and hosts literally hundreds of newbies; in the winter it becomes a miniature ice rink and this is where my story begins.

As a related aside, I would like to mention that one day fairly recently my 13-year-old son returned from some errand with his father with a fast food soda cup in tow;  I walked in on him melting the ice with warm water and marveling at the wonder of it. It is there one minute, entirely fierce and rock solid.  But then a mere trickle of warm water causes it to dissolve and be no more. 

Wow, how is that for a metaphor for facing our fears in life?
Okay, so back to the goat trail—these cavernous puddles, created by ATV enthusiasts, have endured a bizarre winter of freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw and I have had the joy of observing it.  Yes, and interacting with it.  Because like my son, I have determined that ice is a very satisfying plaything.  
As I walk I am always on the lookout for good sized rocks that I can easily carry in my pocket.  These rocks will be enthusiastically thrown into the ice to determine its fortitude.  Just the other day I hit the ice with such a precise shot that the rock made a bulletlike hole and sank below the surface, leaving the water no choice but to actually glug up through that clean and tiny opening.
The weather has been so unpredictable, however, that these simple puddles have becomes a scientific wonderland. With the temperatures fluctuating so wildly day-to-day, I have observed some fascinating phenomenon—my favorite being how the outer edges of the puddle will freeze with a kind of air pocket beneath, creating sheets of thin ice that shatter like window panes when pressured. So one day, as I was stepping on these fragile edges and then picking up the pristine pieces of ice and hurling them onto the more solid frozen center of the puddle, a lady on a bike happened upon me. 

She assumed (wrongly) that I heard her approach (shattering ice is LOUD) and so our near collision surprised both of us greatly.  When she realized, she apologized and I shamefacedly admitted—Well, you caught me playing.
 We have all heard the expression “skating on thin ice” and we have all heard the expression “playing with fire” but have we ever realized that they mean the same thing? They mean we are taking a calculated risk—we are employing what we know about these elements and trying to use them to our advantage, understanding that the possibility of backfire is higher than average.  We understand what we are dealing with and are betting on our luck? Cunning? Intuition? to guide us to safer and higher ground.

 I am laughing now (like I did as I admitted to the biker that I had been “playing”) because faith, in its most common human form, is a bit like skating on (or playing with) thin ice—we have a sense that it is generally okay but we know that our fear can sink us.  We know that what we DON’T know is a wild card, and we choose to walk forward in faith or retreat into that fear.  Will the Red Sea part or will we drown? And is one thing necessarily better than the other?
The older we get, the more comfortable we are with that kind of ambiguity; we know we don’t have all the answers and therefore we hesitate to label anything GOOD or BAD. We understand that the more open we become to all possible outcomes, the more likely the “best” possible scenario will manifest. This is the power of aging; the knowledge that thin ice may not be as “stable” as solid ice, but it’s actually considerably more interesting.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.” ~Helen Keller

To grow up is to no longer retreat into superstition. It is acknowledging that which has most meaning for us and acting on it, come what may. Today I am daring you to skate on thin ice and play with fire; but ONLY if you trust yourself.  That is where our power lies—in self-trust and self-worth.
As long as we are fishing for those answers outside of our own souls (“there’s no place like home”), we are using the wrong bait. You are the only authority as far as your world is concerned—shatter those illusions and grasp the gold ring—understand that satisfaction is not about outcomes but process.  As Goethe wrote, “The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.

 Is that not a call to freedom?