There is panic in the air these days. I cannot comprehend how trillions of dollars appear and disappear in days, even hours, nothing tangible yet affecting so many people in so many ways. I don’t recall how we chose to live in quite this way. We have a global financial crisis that has rocked the world and gotten every one’s attention focused in a meaningful way on the upcoming election and their own home economics. The silly stuff about how many houses one guy has or who sat in what congregation has finally become irrelevant and folks are actually paying attention to the things that matter. How are we going to pay our bills? Where will the next jobs come from? And what do we do about this wretched war? The early retirees are scared to death. Although with so much accumulated wealth in this country folks have been opting out earlier and earlier. What happened was that the brightest and best entrepreneurial minds left the game and now maybe they will have to get back in. That can’t be all bad. At kid’s soccer games people are talking about the Dow and trying to figure out what it all means. The commentators are waiting for somebody to explain it to them too, and so we are all getting the picture that no one really understands any of it. So everybody defaults to form. The optimists in the crowd say it will come back, the plans are in place and the money just has to wend its way back into the system so that credit gets freed up once more. And the pessimists say this will be minimally a four quarter problem and then we an call it a depression instead of all this recession nonsense. Then the Dow climbs 1000 points in one day and those guys get quiet until it drops 700 again the next day. The only sure thing seems to be that anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen next is lying.
But there is something else in the air up here in Vermont besides worry and panic. It’s the geese. The temperatures are dipping into the thirties now at night and the geese are all headed south for the winter. Every day the pond in covered with hundreds of them as they land and hang out for a day or two before proceeding on their way. This morning as I drank my coffee and let the chickens out to play in the leaves several formations flew over offering what sounded like a salute, maybe a “see you in a few months”, which the chickens did their best to return. So somebody does still know something after all. These birds know that winter is coming and sunshine is calling them to their other home. Their presence in the skies is a reliable reminder that the important things are still working. The sun is coming up, the leaves are falling down, and there is a sense of expectation in the air as the animals scurry around getting ready.
The market is fickle. And if we tune our lives only to it the uncertainty is almost too much to bear. Real life is the reassuring sound of the old boiler chugging back to life for one more year. It is a basement full of wood promising plenty of cheerful fires and movie nights ahead. It is frost on the pumpkins in the mornings and shafts of golden autumn sunlight filling the house in the afternoons.
There are people who are losing their houses this year. Luckily we are not among them. But even they must hang onto the simple truths and free beauty that can carry us through if we can just slow down and pay some quiet attention. There is a line in an old American historical novel that goes, “In america we get up in the morning, we go to work, and we solve our problems” I love those short thoughts. They have often held me in good stead. I think of them as a map. Because mostly they are true. I would add to that list that we must remember to look up and keep our hearts and minds focused out instead of in. I think we are all being challenged to think differently about life and be less wasteful. Can we spend less, conserve more and endeavor to live more simply in a more elemental way like all the other animals?
Keep your eyes on those geese. They keep it simple and they always know which way to go…..