I have just returned from a week visiting a friend in northwestern Washington. My friend lives on a peninsula that juts out into the sea. From her living room, one can see the water of the North Pacific making its daily pass in and out, leaving in its wake ready meals for the otters, herons, egrets, eagles and other sea birds and mammals that move on and around the shores. Far into the distance looms the northernmost of the Cascade mountains--Mount Baker, a sight to behold. I spent most of my time in her living room concentrating on some work we were doing together; but each time I looked out, the mountain looked different—as if warning visitors to beware. In a heartbeat, the mountain seems to move from rain to shine to snow to fog and back to shine again. I can imagine being caught up there unable to backtrack and unable to move forward. As it happens, I appreciate nature from a much more sensible vantage point.
People who live in a place like this run the risk of either being distracted by the spectacle or becoming inured to it. Neither seems a good thing. I have never lived in such a place as this. I’ve lived in rural America, a remote university town, an industrial city, a suburb, and large cities on two continents. I can safely say that I have never been able to look out my living room window at a vista like my friend’s. But I make a choice each day wherever I live to find the paradise. In the view from where I sit writing at my computer, I look out at the tops of the scraggly trees—the branches still discernibly naked against the gray early morning sky. The one tree I focus on is unceremoniously framed by electrical wires. The shed that sits in the corner of the yard is functional but not a thing of beauty. The grass is beginning to look like a cornfield and desperately needs mowing. There are several gardening tools scattered around next to the shed, which really need to be put back in their proper place. And there’s that pesky barrel right in the middle of the yard—the one we use to transfer branches and other things from the yard to the large trash barrel—in the place where someone with a more sophisticated yard might see a graceful fountain. But I see that the ends of the branches are growing fat and promise new leaves if only we could have a few days of warmer weather. If you look with an eye toward finding the things of beauty in your life, you will always have that little piece of contented pleasure in the corner of your heart where the scourge of the world never strays and where you can always experience another day in paradise.