Today’s photo is the early morning sunlight touching the tops of the trees with a warm glow, moments before the light spreads lower and wakens the earth. It’s the everyday version of alpenglow.
After the incredible sunset I saw the other day, I’ve been thinking about how I look at the woods around me and how that changes with the seasons. In earliest spring, I look for the first hint of spring growth, the first swelling of new buds, the first tinge of green. I'm focused on the smallest details. In autumn, I (like nearly everyone else) am more focused on the fall colors around me. In winter, I’m usually looking at how snow redecorates the landscape.
This year is different so far as I’ve had no more than a trace of snow. The leaves are down. Spring growth is months away. So I’ve turned my attention to the sky, to the sunrises and sunsets. And I’ve come to think that this redirection of my focus is yet another good comparison with how we go through our lives.
Sometimes our attention is caught by the minutiae of day-to-day errands and chores that are right in front of us. I constantly have to remind myself that there’s more to life than just the next errand. The chores never end, and if you plan to do them all before you have fun or go someplace interesting, you’ll never get out of the house.
Other times our focus is broader and we see more of what’s around us. These are days when I’m more balanced, when I can see the connections between tree species and the birds that depend on them for food and shelter, where I hear two distant great-horned owls and know that their courtship has begun again.
But sometimes we step back even further and look at an even bigger picture. Those are the days when I am captured by the beauty of a sunset and look beyond my woods and even beyond my own life. These days of an outward turning focus are important for us too. These are the times when we see if our own lives are going where we want them to, where we look beyond ourselves and into the paths of those around us, where we think about future lives and what will touch them.
In a way, the days of outward focus have similarities with the days when day to day trivia threatens to overtake us. I don’t think we should spend all our time either focused on minutiae or looking out so far ahead that we lose track of what’s around us. We aren’t meant to live with our eyes so much in the distance that we stumble over our own feet. And we aren’t meant to live without ever lifting our eyes either.
It’s the balanced days where we should spend most of our time and focus, though I think the only way to be truly balanced is to understand both the distance ahead and the tasks that threaten to ensnare. It’s only when we understand both edges of life that we appreciate where true balance lies.