A few weekends ago I experienced one of the most beautiful three days I can remember. The temperature was perfect and the color of the changing leaves made for a wonderful reminder of the beauty all around us here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
On Saturday, we went to a college football game. The rolling mountains surrounding the stadium made for a stunning backdrop to a terribly unstunning game. Metaphorically, it reminded me of life. Our team lost but there was still beauty around us. Similarly, in life we experience losses but it does not mean that the joy around us disappears. It's just harder to see during difficult times.
On Sunday, I played golf with my son. There is great joy in experiencing a shared interest with my children and it's cool spending quality time with a college student who doesn't think I'm a total idiot. During our round, we saw colorful trees, rolling mountains and lots of really poor chip shots. Again, the the beauty of the golf course could have easily been hidden by the ugliness of our game. But we didn't allow it.
Lastly, on Monday, I went for my morning walk up the leaf-strewn roads near my home where brilliant rays of sunlight streaked through the orange, yellow, and red autumn trees. As I walked up the steep mountain incline, my lungs and knees reminded me that I had not exercised enough lately. They also reminded me that I'm getting older, balder, and slower and that it's easy to focus on the physical changes I'm experiencing rather than the loveliness all around me.
Simply put, life has ups and downs.
Artist Andrew Wyeth who once said that he was watching a beautiful duck floating on a pond when suddenly, a snapping turtle pulled it under the water and killed it. He was struck by the coexistence of joy and tragedy in that one incident and said that he often tried to capture the same interplay of emotions in his art.
As I've traveled across the country for the past week, I continue to be amazed at the everyday interplay between joy and tragedy. Whether it's the gaping holes where the World Trade Center used to be as the new Freedom Tower climbs fantastically to the sky beside it, or the homeless person sitting on the streets of San Francisco in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, or the gloomy start to the rainy season in Portland, Oregon while the majestic Mt. Hood pokes out above the clouds, we must understand that both are a part of our rich life experience.
Sometimes, depending on what we're experiencing, it's hard to see one because of the other. So, here are a few suggestions for accepting the balance in life.
Accept reality. Often when something difficult is going on, we wish we were someone else or somewhere else. But that's not reality. Reality is what it is. Once we accept that, we can deal with the situation more effectively. When we deny reality we prevent ourselves from seeing what's really there.
Embrace the bad. It's a cliche but bad things happen to good people, bad people and everyone in between. We don't particularly like it when bad things happen but that's life, the same as it is when good things happen, and it's much worse when we fight it. If on the other hand we embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly, we won't also suffer from the struggle of not wanting to struggle.
Look hard for the beauty. Beauty is present in every situation. The reason we don't always see it is because of our reluctance to see the entire situation. Our automatic response is to often see the negative or the challenge while not seeing the gift of beauty right there beside it. So, we must look hard and look purposefully for the good.
Autumn is a reminder of the changes in life. However, the way it reminds us is beautiful. It's as if nature is telling us that we don't have to go through life avoiding the changes but instead can face them brilliantly, realizing that this is part of the process. Now that's a beautiful reminder.