Tag Archives: fall foliage

Progress: is it necessary?

Progress:n. a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal), gradual betterment.

America’s culture is all about progress — New! Improved! Bigger! (Smaller!) Smarter! Stronger! Thinner! Faster! Wealthier!

We compare the past to the present and expect progress to have happened. We compare the present to the future (even the beginning of the day to the end of it), and hope that we will soon be farther along than we are now.

But is this realistic? Are we playing in a giant pyramid scheme bound for collapse?

Certainly More! is not working for us these days. The more of us there are on this fragile planet and the more stuff we have the faster we use up nature’s resources. We have trouble facing the fact that life is a cycle: birth, growth, decline, death. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Focusing on birth and growth is so much more rewarding than thinking about the decline and death part.

In an economic downturn and a climate crisis – both of which are global in scope, can we re-program our progress mindset and begin valuing stasis? Or even contraction?

I’m not optimistic. As much as I’d like to live fully in the moment, not striving for a better later, my own personal history points to problems.

For example, when I was a stay-at-home mom with two little kids, my life looked like this: shop, cook, eat, wash dishes, shop, cook, etc. Repeat.  Clean house, bathe kids and do laundry, then family dirties up house and selves, clean house, bathe kids and do laundry. Repeat.

At the end of the day I fell into bed feeling like I had done NOTHING. That is, I had made no forward or onward movement and could see no betterment of our condition.  Only if I did something new that had a longer arc of life before decline set in would I feel satisfied. Sewing new curtains, planting a shrub, or completing a writing assignment – now those efforts indicated progress.

I often wonder if cave woman had these same frustrations or if she chopped wood and carried water, putting one foot in front of the other – simply grateful that nobody in her family had been eaten by a saber-tooth tiger that day.

Regardless of how cave woman dealt with the notion of progress, it’s clear I need to re-tool my attitude. Since my retirement savings have been slashed by half, I will heretofore define progress as Less! Smaller! Fewer! Cheaper!

Right now the sun is shining, there is a tree in flaming reds across the street lighting up the sky, and I’m going out to rake leaves. For today, that will be enough.

flame-maple

Pause for the present moment

Pause: v. to stop temporarily, to linger for a time

Present: adj. now existing or in progress, being in view or at hand

I take two yoga classes a week, which I love for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to slow down and pay attention to the present moment. We practice being present by focussing on the breath and on the sensations in the body as it’s twisted into pretzel-like postures (future P-post?).

All well and good. My problem is bringing that focus into the rest of my life, starting with the ten-minute drive to yoga class.

Somehow I’m always running behind. I try to pack 14 last minute tasks into a time slot that can maybe hold three. So on the drive to class I’m trying to figure out how to pass the slow-poke car ahead of me, how to time the next stoplight, whether to take an alternate and possibly faster route.

You get the idea. I’m not present.

This race to yoga is not a winning strategy. This morning, for example, the sun was just poking out behind a blue-gray storm cloud and lighting up a patchwork of brilliant yellow and red leaves on the trees that line Burnt Bridge Creek. If I’d had an extra two minutes, I would have pulled off the road and just soaked in the beauty of the light, the clouds, the fall foliage.

Well, I consoled myself, maybe the scene will still be that lovely when I pass it on my way home. But of course two hours later the rain was falling heavily and the view was obliterated.

That particular moment is gone forever. I could spend THIS present moment beating myself up for my bad habit of running so late that any pause is impossible.  Instead I decided to find a little beauty in my own yard when the rain broke (briefly) a few minutes ago.

Here’s one colorful corner – a formerly purple cotinus (unbeatable for fall color!) in front of my formerly green grapevine ( you have to click on it because the expanded image is much better):

cotinus-grape2