Sunsets here at the farm can be breath-taking. At a glance the image looks like a forest fire or a volcanic explosion. It is just a sunset. It is so easy to mistake something lovely and benign for something dangerous
Between where I was standing and this sunset, about a two minute walk past apple orchards, is a wide canal in which Kai-the-dog swims most days. We went swimming this morning before apple-picking and while swimming in the canal, a tumble-weed came floating down the canal at a slow, meandering pace. It was about the size of a large pumpkin, with a round, stick-architecture, half-submerged. The reedy cage was lovely in the water and I wished I could become two inches small so as to ride and climb within its round cage of connected twigs on into adventures down-stream. Not “James in the Giant Peach” but rather “Charles in the floating tumbleweed.”
Suddenly Kai-the-dog, who had been happily swimming in big circles and lapping the cool water, saw the floating tumbleweed. He froze. It was making its way towards him and a lumbering pace about 40 feet away and he would have none of it! Not one for courage, he clambered up the canal embankment and sat next to me staring at the tumbleweed with a decidedly furrowed brow. Looking at me, and then looking at the on-coming floating tumbleweed, Kai-the-dog was clearly demanding answers! “What is that?” …”Why is it in my canal?” “Who do we call to have it shot and killed?” “What are you going to do about that invader so that I may continue my Sunday-morning swim?”
I had no answers for him. He would simply need to wait and see … find out that it was not dangerous, simply different. Not a threat…simply a new thing mistaken at-a-glance.
I do that too. I see something new or out-of-place, and because it is different and strange I attribute danger or threat to it too often and too easily.
I am not suggesting we be so naive as to ignore danger or pretend-away threat. One thing the church is teaching me is that naiveté is dangerous. But what I am proposing is that our immediate response to something new in life – be it loss, grief, betrayal, manipulation, change, death – our immediate response could be curiosity rather than fear. Fear is a choice.
The next time I see a tumble-weed, I will bring it home for Kai-the-dog to play with. A ball made of sticks!!!! How could he not LOVE that?!?! Yes. It will seem strange at first. But it could be so fun! The best stick ever – one that is also a ball – I mean just imagine the fun!!! Kai-the-dog will LOVE that. But he will have to drop his fear of “new” and of “different” and engage his curiosity first. What do you and I miss in life simply due to the pre-judge-ices which we take and then hold at first glance? What might be welcomes if fear were exchanged for wonder and curiosity?