The Extravagance of Being

This is the season of giving, of depleting the savings accounts and trying to balance the scale between giving and receiving, of cordoning off time for family in the midst of a giant collective shove to propel the economy into the black for another year. It’s a season of rising joy, a half bell curve, where the post-holiday reality check smacks you like a fall to the pavement. Gifts received graciously, excitedly, are quickly used, worn, and eaten. Time passes, and those non-consumables are ultimately relegated to the back of the closet or the top shelf to gather dust before being hauled to the local donation center, making space for the cycle to begin again.

But what of the intangible.

My niece received the ultimate Christmas gift, or maybe she gave it, depending on your perspective. Her holiday plans were interrupted by a trip to the hospital to deliver her first child. It’s a gift we’ve all experienced on the receiving end. It’s a gift that holds such promise and expectation of growth and renewal, of successes, of love and bonding. It’s a gift often taken for granted until it’s gone.

And gone it will be all too soon. This Christmas season also saw the loss of a dear sister-in-law to cancer, the end of a life well lived.

Life and death.

Our existence on this ball of rock suspended in space is a tremendous gift. The place we occupy in space and time is unique to us, and to us alone. We may collect friends and family to walk the path with us, but their vista is different, and they may tread easily where we have cause to stumble. We grow up seeing thing with fresh eyes that cloud over with time. We begin with the excitement of the new, learning instructions for how the world works, until for many it becomes mundane, old, used, and we merely exist until we don’t any more.

But if we look closely, there is extravagance all around us. The heady scent of flowers in the spring that bring the buzzing, industrious bees in their quest for nectar. The small molecules of water that are so constructed as to hold onto each other as they ride the wave of gravity toward the ocean, bringing us fresh mountain streams and scenic waterfalls. Basalt, sandstone, and granite tower over us, ever so slowly shifting and moving, only to then crumble and fall, reminding us of our impermanence in this ancient place. The transfer of gasses within our lungs, the beating of our hearts, the plasticity of our brains, all miraculous gifts that we take for granted until they are gone. The capacity for love and forgiveness that strengthens ties and creates a web of safety and security, tendrils of which creep outward in random acts of kindness toward strangers. Extravagance. Just look to the closest planet and compare – then immerse yourself in it.

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