If You Need a Reminder

The field seemed to be steaming as the night’s rain evaporated and mixed with the humidity hanging heavily in the air. Adding to the density in the air, the birds were busy in both flight and song. Mesmerized, I walked toward the pond, startling a gaggle of chatty geese into the air. It was beautiful and lush, but the fecundity was almost overwhelming. My pace, typically slow and thoughtful, began to feel plodding and heavy — almost tentative. And that’s when I noticed. I was a full participant in the intricate web of life in the field. There had been a mosquito hatch and the hungry young insects had found me!

I recalled advice that a friend had offered many years ago when we were paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe and Wilderness area. She reminded me of how much we (humans) take from the earth and how little of tangible positive benefit we offer back to her. In that context, feeding a few mosquitos is really not too much to ask. She suggested that we honor each bug by treating each bite as an offering rather than as a violation. I’d like to say that her advice helped me to assume some equilibrium or a Buddha-mind while I enjoyed a long walk through the field while serving a feast to some of the tiny insects that provide a critical foundation to the food chain. But the truth is, I turned around and hustled back up the trail. I even killed a few mosquitos as I approached my car.

That evening, without cause or a point of origin, I was overwhelmed by sadness about the hurt in the world. The weight of my grief was relieved by a good, long cry. Sometimes it is simply too much to hold gratitude for my safety, health and loved ones, while also bearing witness to the suffering that we are inflicting on one another and on the earth. A good cry helps. A long walk in the field usually does too.

Was my grief overload triggered by my hasty retreat and the mosquitos I had mindlessly killed or was it just time to let off some steam? I don’t know. But I do know that I feel better. And I know that the mosquitoes are hungry and we are food. There is a lesson in there somewhere. While I wait to find out what it is, I will continue to work on gently expanding my compassionate heart.

If You Need a Reminder

If you need a reminder that

Your blood, sweat, and tears matter

And that your compassion will be tested…

If you need a reminder that

You are the only you the world will ever know…

If you need a reminder

That you are significant…

Take a walk

In a steamy summer field after the rains have stopped.

The flowers will be lifting their heads to the sun,

while the birds dry their wings and

Thousands of newly hatched mosquitoes wait for their first meal.

Each one offers a powerful reminder.