Contrasts

We climbed in the sun, in the heat, up a dry, rock-strewn mountain.  Our backs were dripping with sweat, our eyes burning from the sun’s harsh rays.  We felt utterly exhausted. 

At the crossroads, we stopped for a breath.  Then, a little further up the hill, we noticed one lone tree, its lush green canopy promising a break from the sun.  There was no way of knowing what to expect from this tree:  would it be a good place to stop?  Or would thorns, bugs, and uneven rocks underneath make it an undesirable picnic spot?

We decided to go for it.  After one final push up the mountain, we reached a humble carob tree.  And, hallelujah – there was plenty of space to sit down.  There were no thorns or bugs.  Just ample shade and lots of large, flat rocks to spread out on.

We sprawled in the shade, unpacked a large thermos of iced coffee, and filled two tin cups.  Then, we sat there in silence, sipping coffee and tuning in to our surroundings.  Three large birds circled overhead, chirping loudly as they swooped about.  A dragonfly landed on one tall blade of dry grass, which proceeded to sway back and forth in the breeze.  After a minute or two, I was so cool that I had to roll down my sleeves.  I had goosebumps.  It was heavenly.

How could something so simple seem so very luxurious?  The shade of a tree.  A cup of homemade iced coffee.  The sound of birds chirping. 

What made these moments so incredibly delightful?  It’s all about the contrasts.

Moments before we stopped, we had been exerting mental and physical energy to push ourselves up a hot hill.  We were parched and tired.  The sun was relentless.  But as we sat down under that tree, we experienced a complete turnaround.  Once we made the shift, we were able to fully appreciate the tantalizing beauty of small things: Shade.  Cold.  Silence.

So often in life, it’s contrasts that produce the most special moments, the times you can’t help but remember forever.  I have fond memories of the sweet joy of teenage freedom (only appreciated in contrast to the relative confinement of childhood).  I remember my husband dancing into our wedding with a smile lighting up his face (after five long weeks spent completely apart). The birth of each of my children is vivid in my mind: a new human went from hidden and unknown to alive and wailing on my chest.

As time passes by, life may present fewer surprises, fewer great contrasts.  But we can still appreciate life’s little hardships that give us an opportunity to grab hold of our own magical moments of contrast.

Complete peace at the end of a long day of hiking.

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