Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Footholds of the Past

This morning in Indiana there is so much moisture in the air that a kind of mystical haze surrounds everything. After almost two weeks of bright, white heat, the soft, muffled morning feels like what I imagine it must be to discover an oasis, somewhere far out in a desert on the other side of the world.

I noticed a couple of days ago that one of the clematis vines that winds its way along the front porch had gone brown. This morning I decided to clip it back to give the green vines more room to grow. But when I took my shears out and started looking for a clean place to cut, I noticed that the other vines were curling their tiny green tendrils around it, using it as a foundation from which to reach a little higher. I tried snipping a few small places, thinking if I cut in a strategic place, the whole vine would just come out with a gentle tug. After a few attempts, I realized that wasn't happening. The old vine had become part of the growing of the living vine. The structure was real. The investment was forever. The old and the new were twined together inseparably.

I looked at that vine and saw in myself my own tendency to want to weed out the "bad stuff"--the mistakes, the errors, the plain old-fashioned bad choices I'd made in my life. I'd just as soon clip them back and put them in the compost bin, where they can become food for better things. But it does ring true that all the experiences we have, however we name them, serve as a foundation for our current life, whether they have sap flowing through their veins or not. They become a foundation we lean on, maybe unknowingly, as we reach higher. We might not want to make those same choices or have more experiences like those again, and it's probably worth considering why the vine went brown (so perhaps we can avoid making the same mistake in the future), but seeing the value of it all wrapped up together like that was comforting to me this morning.

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