Five years ago this month I went to breakfast with my family at a small diner we always frequented. As we waited for our food I combed my fingers through my hair and I was mortified to find the hair had ended up in my hand. My mother saw and quickly grabbed it and wrapped it up in a napkin. Later that day my friend Tara helped Brett and Sienna shave all my hair off:
My oncologist said that after five years the odds of my cancer returning goes down to almost zero. It will be five years this July. I was thinking about that yesterday as a few people remarked how long my hair was getting. Last year I decided I was going to finally grow it back out after I found out Sienna was telling people I had short hair because of cancer. My hair would have long since have grown out but I’d kept it short. My hair is almost shoulder length now, it’s finally getting to an un-awkward length. I guess that’s a milestone? And while my hair is slowly becoming un-awkward, I am continuing to embrace my overall awkwardness. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I savor the contemplative life I have now. I find so much joy hanging out with dogs, chickens and crows all day long. If they teach me anything it’s to slow down and stay there. My chickens lay one egg a day, and spend the rest of the day foraging so that they have the energy to do it again. That’s a good model I think. Good things take time.
I was listening to the On Being podcast the other day with Maria Popova and I just loved how she put this…that there is “no shortcut for the conquest of meaning”:
We seem somehow bored with thinking. We want to instantly know. And there’s this epidemic of listicles. Why think about what constitutes a great work of art when you can skim the “20 Most Expensive Paintings in History?” And I’m very guided by this desire to counter that in myself because I am, like everybody else, a product of my time and my culture. And I remember, there’s a really beautiful commencement address that Adrienne Rich gave in 1977 in which she said that an education is not something that you get but something that you claim.
And I think that’s very much true of knowledge itself. The reason we’re so increasingly intolerant of long articles and why we skim them, why we skip forward even in a short video that reduces a 300-page book into a three-minute animation — even in that we skip forward — is that we’ve been infected with this kind of pathological impatience that makes us want to have the knowledge but not do the work of claiming it. I mean, the true material of knowledge is meaning. And the meaningful is the opposite of the trivial. And the only thing that we should have gleaned by skimming and skipping forward is really trivia. And the only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. And the road to that is time. There’s nothing else. It’s just time. There is no shortcut for the conquest of meaning. And ultimately, it is meaning that we seek to give to our lives.
Five years later I can say that I’ve found meaning in everything that has happened. But I had to go and find it, and I’m still seeking it. I feel like my chickens sometimes….constantly foraging. That’s why this little online space of mine hasn’t morphed so much. I am not in a hurry anymore. I don’t feel the pressure to make it all flashy and impressive. It’s just the place where I post about what I am foraging, what I loving and what I am learning. I spend more time contemplating than I do completing. And sometimes I’m only contemplating chickens and dogs and painting. All good and awkward things to love I think.