This morning I was greeted by a baby raccoon and his mother. Their chirping chatter, warning me to keep a safe distance, caught my attention as I raised my leg to do hamstring stretches alongside the concrete barrier across from my apartment. I looked up to see the baby shyly peering from the other side of a tree, his masked face looking curiously my way. When he saw that I wasn’t going to move in his direction, he cautiously crawled to the top of the tree trunk and watched me. A short while later his mother appeared behind him.
It’s hard to say who was more curious about whom. The mutual interest interrupted morning routines. I could have watched them for a long time, but my curiosity slowed them down. We were engaged in a staring match, a game I was destined to lose. And, it was keeping me from my appointed task. I took my first step down the path, looking back over my shoulder as I did. With me a safer distance away, they went about their morning’s work. I turned to watch as the baby slid face first into a hole in the tree trunk, his hind feet perched carefully on the rim of the hole, his backside twitching as he dug deeper. His mother stood guard, keeping a watchful eye fixed on me until I was out of sight.
Minutes later, one of the young foxes I see every morning ran confidently up the path toward me. He stopped a few yards in front of me and sat to watch as I ran by. He has the gangly features of an adolescent. His triangular head sits awkwardly atop his long, thin body. He cocked his head as I ran past, life’s universal sign of curiosity.
There is new life all around me, exploring the world for the first time, taking everything in with the intense curiosity of a child’s mind, certain that there is no finer thing, nothing more fascinating than the fan that whirls above its head or the leaf that mysteriously blows into the house through the open screened door. The intensity of their fascination explodes into squeals of delight, their little bodies unable to hold the sheer pleasure of exploring and seeing, of being alive in a world so full of new things to experience.
I am a child again. Every breath I take surprises me with the life it brings. It settles deep in my belly, a satisfying wave of peace and joy splashing me as it finds its resting place deep inside me. I see what has been there all along. I hear with new ears the sounds that have always filled the days of my life, but instead of allowing them to become a low roar in the background of the darkening dullness of depression, they become the messengers of life’s magnificent goodness. I’m seeing for the first time what I’ve known all along, hearing with new ears creation’s ancient testimony of each creature’s place and worth, of our connectedness and blessed dependence.
I am not alone. I am kept in the watchful eye of loved ones who see what lurks in my blind spots. I am embraced by love that knows the urgency of truthfulness. The certainty of its presence, once questioned, now trusted, straightens my back and lengthens my stride. I feel it pulsing through me with each breath I breathe. I have dared to believe that I belong to the earth, nurtured at its breast, attentive to its lessons of purpose and meaning, living into the freedom that comes when I surrender to my own humanity.