Thursday, March 10, 2016
Want Versus Need
For next week's column, I spent a day at a sugar shack watching sap boil. Knowing it was still an hour or so away from reaching the one particular boiling point that say the syrup is ready to be poured, my host, Jack, insisted I take his four-wheeler for a drive through the sugar woods.
What I discovered partway along the trail is this: It's easy to give directions -- "Just keep going straight" -- when you know the area like the back of your own hand.
Because for a stranger in the woods, the fork in the road kind of muddles things.
I knew I was out of the sugar woods because there were no more green or blue lines umbilically connecting the trees. So I had a choice: go back the way I came and explain why I was back at the shack so soon. Or carry on.
I sat at the fork in the trail and look left then right. Both were tracks leading through the woods. Both were pristinely snow-covered.
In my head, I heard Jack talking about the loop. "When you make the loop around." But I didn't know if he meant loop around back to my starting point or loop around past his son's camp?
But on the right was a set of fox tracks and having nothing better to judge my decision on than those tracks, I allowed their presence to make the decision for me.
It's that mysterious, that unlikely and that obvious. I didn't have to see the creature who made the tracks in the snow to understand I could follow them.
And sometimes that's all it takes. Making a choice based on what is right before your eyes: The tracks are there so follow them. If you don't want to get lost, follow the clearly marked trail through the snow.
Pay attention, girl! You can't miss the message.
When I got home from the sugar woods, the mail was sitting on the counter and the much-anticipated envelope from ArtsNS was sitting on top of the pile. I could tell by the thinness that it did not contain the grant money (via cheque) that I'd hoped to receive in order to take six weeks off from my church work back I have to rewrite a book.
And as I looked over my photos as a way of figuring out what to write about, I realized that listening to the voice inside or praying to God or watching for signs or trying to figure out if it's a coincidence or not is about need, not want.
I wanted that grant but I don't need it. I'll still do the work; it just means juggling other writing at the same time. I wonder if perhaps I need to continue working that hard, and perhaps I need to keep writing sermons even more.
I wanted to figure out my way through the woods but I needed help. So the tracks were there to show me the way. And you need to know that the tracks were there showing me the way ALL THE WAY BACK. As soon as the snow cover had melted off the trail, taking the sure and steady imprint of the fox tracks with it, I could see the shack in the distance.
Here's the common sense: Use your senses. Watch, listen, feel, taste. Understand the difference between want and need. The first is a question you ask over and over. The second is an answer to the question you haven't asked yet.
It's always that mysterious, that unlikely and that obvious. As simple and as fleeting as tracks imprinted in the melting snow.