Saturday, July 2, 2011

Glaciers and Streams

Alaska's famed Mendenhall Glacier sits outside Juneau. I was treated to a trip to Alaska by my now ex-husband for my 50th birthday. I thank him for the experience. I had been wanting to go to Alaska since I saw my grandfather's slides (!) in the late 1960's. It became the trip of a lifetime.

But, wait. My lifetime is not over. Yes, I am past 50, over halfway through an average human lifespan. But, over halfway does not mean downhill. 

What does the glacier have to do with me? Well, let's see...

A glacier is a frozen river flowing ever slowly down a mountain usually to a body of water. I am definitely not frozen, I am a warm, giving person. I give a lot to the people in my life, some may say even too much. I give to my students, my friends and partners. I have learned that I gave too much to my past partners. Will I still give to the Man Across the Bridge? Absolutely, but I will learn to let him give to me.

Nor am I a river, but I am flowing; flowing through life. Glaciers flow v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y down the mountain, and while I have no control over the speed at which I flow through life, for that would mean controlling the earth's rotations, I can control the speed at which I experience  life. I can sit on the sidelines and watch it go by, or get out there and participate. Sure, aches and pains from advancing age, may (may!) have to be taken into account, but there are other adventures that can be considered.

But, what can I learn from a glacier? Patience. Patience in the areas of my life where patience is necessary, learning to slow down and savor those special moments and experiences, like a fine wine, meal, or piece of chocolate. In the last few months I feel I have been more like this stream flowing quickly down the mountain. I have grown tremendously in my new life. Too fast? Perhaps, but I don't feel overwhelmed by it, rather exhilarated, liberated. So, maybe not. 
Both the glacier and the stream have their beauty; the quiet elegance and massive strength of the glacier as it slowly crawls down the mountain and the rapid twisting, churning and splashing of the stream as it winds its way downhill. As glaciers and streams flow down the mountain, they change the landscape of the mountain. Glaciers scrape up the mountain and push the accumulated debris down to the ocean or else it becomes embedded within the glacier to be discovered later as the glacier melts. Streams will move around larger, immoveable problems, like trees, or pick up and deposit smaller problems somewhere down the mountain. As rivers and streams move objects downhill, the waters tumble the problem over and over, eventually breaking it into smaller bits and pieces, depositing the situation somewhere along the stream's path. The waters will eventually also erode an immoveable problem until it, too, can be dealt with.

In dealing with life's situations, it is best to look at the magnitude of the problem. Is it immoveable? Can I work around it (for now)? Or should I pick it up, and erode it until I can no longer consider it a problem? My lesson here is I need to be a glacier where patience, elegance and strength are called for, and a stream where twisting and churning are needed. Trouble is, I don't always know which is which.

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