I woke up the other day with the alarm. Not too unusual except it was a fire alarm. I made myself believe it was from across the street and burrowed further under my pillow. Then the knock came at my door. Irritation spread through me. What now? I dragged myself out of bed and peered out the door…Shee-ite! Smoke was everywhere.
It’s amazing how fast you think when seconds count. Its also amazing what gets prioritized: I stopped to pee. Then I grabbed my pack sac and my precious hiking sandals and ran down the stairs.
Luckily for me and all my neighbours there was no fire, only a poorly chosen microwave meal. No one was hurt, no damage caused; just an embarrassed cook. I got back in after the firemen left and was overcome in gratitude.
Later that morning I went for my usual hike. The senses, however, were not so usual. Everything had a poignancy about it. Textures, colours, sounds, it was all so clear and magnified. I marveled at it all and then came to a truth. I realized I couldn’t procrastinate anymore, life was too precious. I went home and dusted.
It was like the adrenalin from the almost fire concentrated into my single, usually well hidden cleaning neuron, sparked its ignition and jumped the synapse. I had a sudden desire to see my home shine.
I haven’t dusted since before Christmas and while I don’t consider it a weekly affair, or even a monthly task, the dust was beginning to stratify. It was like the old commercials of Lemon Pledge except mine was housing civilizations built by generations of dust mites. And while you might think dusting is an innocuous affair, you must know that I have dozens of rock, myriads of feathers and handfuls of shells and dried leaves carefully placed in select groupings ... everywhere. Do you know how tedious it can be to de-arrange, clean and re-arrange a stone menagerie? Very! Unless, of course, I am in the right mood and have Ray Charles on CD. That is another story.
In the right mood, or after a near fire, I pick up each stone or shell and remember its origin: where it came from and by what hand. It’s a way to give honour to those friends who have travelled over the world bringing me back a bit of their journey. I have stones from Laos and Senegal, Morocco and France; coral from Central America and the Philippines and shells from Mexico. I even have a heart-shaped rock from Bragg Creek, Alberta. Each piece has a story, a memory; a feeling. And while, like I said, I honour my friends, I also pay respect to the earth and all its treasures.
This near fire, this brush with fear, shone a light on my priorities, what I consider important; what I need to have in my life. It also reminded me that each object of nature, of what we call stone and shell, rock and bone, comes to us as a gift. They are easy to overlook but their stories are as vital as those of our own... we’ve only to dust them off ever so often and listen.