Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mucking About

There's a beautiful line in The Shawshank Redemption where Red (played by Morgan Freeman) says: "Andy Dufresne--who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side." It's a poignant moment in the film when Andy (played by Tim Robbins) has escaped prison by tunneling his way through a six-foot thick concrete wall and then crawled through the jail's sewage tunnel to land himself in a river, and in freedom.

Though much less dramatic than Dufresne's journey, I had to laugh yesterday as Jennifer and I and Tyler walked through a large field near our house full of sheep, and thus--of course--also full of sheep excrement. Pools of water gathered like lonely bystanders across the field from the previous night's heavy rain, and tracks and paths had converted themselves to mud that sometimes ran deep enough to engulf even our boots.

With soaked socks and to the narration of squelch-squerch, squelch-squerch, squelch-squerch, we ran onwards past the sheep and over small wooden bridges and without any cap for our voices or our laughter. We yelled the things that came to our minds--and we sometimes yelled Freedom! just because it felt like, well, freedom.

Tyler continued to run ahead of Jennifer and I as he said, "I will be the leader!" and Jen and I took great joy in not having to shout ahead, Wait there for us! or Watch out for that car! or Watch out for that massive crowd of people!

We watched Tyler run through the sheep excrement, the mounds of dirt, and the grass that even with mud and flood refused--like especially stubborn cowlicks--to lay down quietly and hide.

And Jennifer and I ran too. We held hands through padded mittens and gloves and as we ran all I could think was this: No matter how crowded life gets in other ways, no matter how hard the hard hits, or how sharp the shocks of the future will surely announce themselves, there is now. There is this moment of running through a field abandoned by people but peopled by sheep. And I love this. 

I used to work as a sherpa for a wonderful program called La Vida (now led by an amazingly gifted leader named Nate Hausman, and first created by another amazingly gifted leader named Rich Obenschain). The program brings groups of students--sometimes incoming Freshmen to Gordon College, where I attended, and sometimes groups of high school of even middle school students--into the wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains. For two weeks, groups travel the mountains, pumping their own water from the rivers, sleeping in the same clothes each night, taking no showers of baths, and hanging food in a bear bag each night--high aloft in the trees so as not to tempt the black bears. One of many beautiful slogans from La Vida is: Be You, Be Here, Be Now.

While there is proper--and important--place and time for planning and thinking ahead, there is also an essential need in us to run freely now. To think not of what has happened (and the guilt, shame, or regret it tries to tag us with) and to think not of what may happen (and the worry and fear we sometimes associate with the future) is sometimes so important to our hearts because they simply can't bear those burdens.

Sometimes our hearts need to move through the dirt, the excrement, the muck in order to find those places of freedom where we can be washed clean.

yesterday, mucking about in the sheep fields, I'm grateful for the freedom I saw on Tyler and Jen's faces. And I'm grateful for the freedom I felt stretch across my own.