Postcard from the Road #5: I’m sitting beside an Idaho river, at dusk, feeling unnerved by chores that have piled up in our absence, and fretting over the need to renew my book marketing efforts, once home again.
Worry, I tell myself, is a form of unbelief.
Red-winged blackbirds trill overhead, as if in agreement. The bloom of Russian olive trees smells like childhood. Waves from a passing boat lap the shore, trigger memories.
In the late 1950s, polio besieged my friend, Peter. He did time in an iron lung. Survived, and grew up—on crutches.
Peter never walked on water. He had a boat. By trial and error, he memorized miles of our meandering, oxbow river, even as he navigated days in a twisted body.
Did he ever long to bail out? I might have. Isn’t that my temptation now?
Looking back, I think he jettisoned “what might have been” and accepted—with joy—”what was.” Come summer, he tracked every sandbar’s shifting contours, mentally charted submerged debris and boulders.
Dodging willow boughs, sedge, and cattails, he sped through hairpin turns. I white-knuckled my seat in the bow. Whooping, he shot us between the concrete piers upholding small-town bridges.
Riding the river with Peter was thrilling. A little crazy. Sometimes, down-in-the-bones scary.
Seemingly fearless, he must have believed the bosomy, pin-curled teachers at our Sunday School. He must have taken to heart Philippians 4:13:
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength (NIV).”
Disease did not define him. With his pale, wasted legs and chronically sunburned torso—Peter out-swam, out-dared, out-whooped and out-boated us all.
Remembering his example makes me straighten my back.
“A Man” is a poem I’ve long loved, written by Nina Cassian. She describes a veteran who loses his arm while defending his country. He dreads living out his years “by halves.” He names his griefs
- he can no longer applaud a performance
- can reap only half a harvest
- can only half-hold his love
And yet . . .
. . . he set himself to do
everything with twice the enthusiasm.
And where the arm had been torn away a wing grew.
Tapping passion within, he must have lived a life “second to none.”
Like Peter, he rediscovered thriving, his birthright.
Our birthright, as children of God.
Saying “Yes takes courage,” writes Vinita Hampton Wright, “because yes is automatically a commitment. . . . Yes is gutsy. Yes will stretch you clear out of your original shape.”
No matter how stretched we feel at present, there’s always someone, somewhere, showing us how to get on with life despite its ordeals.
Writer Joan Halifax defines equanimity as the “stability of mind that allow us to be present with an open heart no matter how wonderful or difficult conditions are.”
After a car struck his motorbike, Evgeny Smirnov, the award-winning Russian break-dancer, lost his leg to alleged medical negligence.
Perhaps you’ve seen his stunning performance with partner Dascha Smirnova in “Russia’s Got Talent.” If not, please expand your ideas of the possible by watching it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlprYKIrI6Y
What about you? What small step will you take toward thriving this week?
“Dare to commit your developing skills and character to a worthy cause or calling,” Hampton Wright urges.