Friday, August 28, 2009

Facing the Challenges: Reflections on Henri Nouwen's Words

Henri Nouwen, esteemed thinker, priest, previous professor at Harvard, and--eventually--member of a community for handicapped persons--explored his own inner life and the workings of the world in profound ways. One of his books, Reaching Out, houses reflections about moving from fear towards love.

In Chapter 4 of this volume, Nouwen writes, "Our preoccupations help us to maintain the personal world we have created over the years and block the way to revolutionary change. Our fears, uncertainties and hostilities make us fill our inner world with ideas, opinions, judgments and values to which we cling as to a precious property. Instead of facing the challenges of new worlds opening themselves for us, and struggling in the open field, we hide behind the walls of our concerns holding on to the familiar life items we have collected in the past" (Nouwen, 1986, Doubleday).

How true.

Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties I experience--and many others I know--is the notion of sustaining or presenting an openness. Far too often, we build our lives with large rocks, and once they are in place, we rehearse their formation continually so that we will will memorize their placements and never have to worry about moving them. In other words: we become tied down by our outdated opinions and beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. I like Nouwen's thoughts, here, because they advocate for "facing the challenges of new worlds opening themselves for us" rather than remaining where we are.

Though painfully difficult to leave the shore, so to speak, it is the way in which I want to seek to live.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Camping with Baby

Jennifer and I just returned from our first camping trip with our nine-month old, Tyler. Prior to having Tyler, jen and I had gone on numerous camping trips, the l;ongest being a National Parks Road Trip a couple years ago where we camping in or near many of the great, Western National Parks.

Campfires, reading by rivers, journaling with mountains in view, liong conversations with cups of coffee brewed by percolation on our trusty Coleman camping stove--purchased by Jennifer for four bucks at a tag sale.

These are the recollections that come to mind when I recall camping with my wife. Camping with Baby on this most recent foray into the Adirondack Mountains, however, was a bit of a different story.

Jen and I joked that our moments of peace would have to become much more efficient. As we hiking up to the top of Roaring Brook Falls, a gorgeous 100 foot waterfall at the base of Giant Mountain, we soon realized that when we peaked, Tyler might allow us 20 minutes at most: we'd have to optimize our time for peace. Fit it in.

And yet.

And yet: there was still peace. We still saw the Falls; our bare feet still found their way to the cool rushing water of the river, the slopes of the slippery rocks.

At one momet on top of Roaring Brook Falls, I had walked over to the edge, where a view is afforded of the mountains in the distance, as well as the top of the waterfall. I stood there, looking off into the wide expanse of land and water--the fresh air, the beauty of it all.

And then I looked in the other direction, up the river. There: Jennifer sat holding Tyler, cradled in her arms, his head close to hers. Her feet touched the cool water, and together, the two of them were a more beautiful sight than I have ever seen. More spectacular than any waterfall; more awe-inspiring than any array of trees; more peaceful than a full day of journaling by a river.

Camping with Baby is definitely different, and I can't promise you that we'll be rearing up to go for another camping trip with Tyler right away. (The lure of carpeted hotels for Tyler to roll around in is strong.) However, Camping with Baby is definitely possible--even peaceful, if we're willing to find that peace shortened just a bit, more concentrated, but also more powerful.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reflections on Rain, Marriage, and Children

Jennifer and I have had ample time to go on long walks in the morning, late morning, early afternoon, afternoon, evening, and pre-bed nighttime walks.

You may have already guessed it: Tyler loves the outdoors. If he is ever fussing, we simply throw him in the backpack--a cool sort of outdoorsy thing which allows Tyler to be on my back at the level of my head and grab fistfulls of my hair when he gets really psyched about something--and out the door we go. Interestingly, Tyler's seemingly insatiable desire to get outside and walk has afforded Jennifer and I lots of time to talk, connect, dream and laugh together. Today was one of the most fun walks we've had: it began pouring as we walked, and we simply decided to keep on chugging along. Tyler squealed with delight and Jennifer and I found ourselves laughing in glee as we became soaked by the cleansing wash of warm rain on a midsummer's day.

Soon, Jennifer and Tyler and I are heading to the Adirondacks for our first family vacation. There is a waterfall there--called Roaring Brook Falls--at which I camped the night before I drove back east to ask Jennifer to date me. That night, alone in the woods with no company other than the moon, the stars and the sound of the rushing falls, I remember hoping she would say yes.

We'll go back there and tell Tyler that he's here because--in no uncertain terms--his mom said "yes."