On Heatwaves, Bad News and Butterflies

Aug 10, 2012

I could post yet another photo of the flies that are buzzing around my kitchen. I could post a photo of the wilting hydrangeas, the backyard thermometer that tells me it’s 105, or the patch of paint on the west wall of my house that is cracking from the onslaught of blazing August sun.

It’s easy to zero in on what’s wrong, even if it’s just a small part of the overall picture. I’m not just talking about how it’s easy to overlook months of heavenly weather and complain when we are sweating out a brief heatwave. It’s also easy to focus on the latest scandal or tragedy as proof positive that things are desperately bad in the world and we’re smack dab in the middle of impending disaster.
But what’s the point?
My dad once said, “If you play outside enough, eventually you’ll get caught in the rain. Who knows, you might even be unlucky enough to get struck by lightening. Just don’t let the idea of getting zapped keep you inside.”
My dad was one of those people who always looked for the grace in things. In fact, he would have made a great PR man with his ability to put a positive spin on any situation. I remember going to see him in the hospital, one of the many times he was in intensive care. He was hooked up to a dozen machines with electrodes on his chest, a tube in his nose, an IV in his arm and compression sleeves on both legs.
“How are ya, Dad?” I said.
He looked awful, and I felt scared, and the beepbeepbeep of his heart monitor made me think about life’s undignified fragility, about inevitable endings and the seemingly random hands of Fate’s card game.
“I’m great!” Dad said.
His voice was small and cracked but his big, booming spirit drowned out the mechanical beep and, in the absence of any Kings or Aces, he offered Fate a beautiful bluff.
“There’s a ball game coming on the TV,” he said, “and the nurse is smuggling in an extra piece of peach pie!”
I guess I’m just trying to say that we should place all things in context. We should enjoy the ball games and peach pies. And if we look past the kitchen flies, we might find a butterfly in the garden.

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