A couple of years ago, while I was in Alaska, I spent a day trekking across a frozen lake en route to a glacier -- Grewingk Glacier, to be specific. It was a full day, beginning on a boat off Homer in the very early and chilly morning, and ending about 14 hours later, back in the same place. That's the thing about Alaska -- stuff isn't easily accessible. One has to plan and prepare and possibly hire a guide. It's not a place for sissies, but I will tell you that everywhere you turn up there you will find something that makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about this life.
For some reason that glacier day popped into my head while I was driving the other morning and so I marinated in those memories on my way to Stowe. The things that have stayed with me in the years since I spent that day walking...all...day...long toward a gigantic blue ancient ice formation are how very quiet the day was, and what an enormous surprise the glacier was up-close. At first, when you see the thing from a great distance, before you've started walking across the lake, it looks...not all that impressive. It looks beautiful and kind of like a blue mountain, but as you get close you realize that your eyes have been playing tricks on you. Because it's gigantic. The closer you come to that goddamned glacier, the more you realize how very small you are, and how big the world around you is. And then, when you're right there, and you're touching this thing that's been there since the Ice Age, you realize how very small your existence has been, all along. When you arrive at this enormous thing that is alive and moving and luminescent...it kind of puts things in perspective.
It changes you forever, that kind of day.
I thought about that glacier and about all of the steps it took to get across that frozen lake, in that snowy Alaskan world, and I realized that there was a story in there about life, itself.
Last night I watched what I think is my all-time favorite movie: It's a Wonderful Life. It wouldn't be Christmas without It's a Wonderful Life. I know the thing by heart, but, still, every year I have to see it again. It never gets old, seeing sweet George Bailey come to the realization about how important his small life is, after all. How every move he made in his life was somehow connected to another person or event. How every step he took, though seemingly small, brought him to a place of beauty and wonder.
It's the solstice today. I love the solstices and the equinoxes. Equinoxi? That would be a fun new word. I love these transitional times -- today from darkness back to light. Yesterday my friend, Raina, and I celebrated the coming of the new by visiting the flower wholesaler here, and boy, was that a great idea. We came home with heaps of greenery and red things and white roses, all to honor this meaningful day, with life. Beautiful, smelly, colorful life.
George Bailey figured it out (with the help of a cheeky angel): we matter. And it's not about money and it's not about power and it's not about having things. It's about taking care of each other, doing stuff together, loving what we have when we have it. This life...it really is a long, slow walk toward something ancient and beautiful and magnificent.