We came up out of the garden and took our boots off, then sat on the porch swing for a few minutes, drinking some cold water. I noticed the boots, next to each other, covered in dirt and mud, and knew I would take a picture. Because I knew I was looking at beauty.
I’ve got a nice collection of the Gucci’s, Gabbana’s, and Vuitton’s of this world in my closet, but these days, it’s accessories like this that fill my heart with joy; the mud boots that allow my son and I to trek out into nature and dig deep into it. Luxury comes in many forms, but chiefly it comes in moments, and in the quality of our presence in those moments.
Our lives can be rich in many ways, but the simplest way is to savor the depth, the beauty, the tenderness in the small moments of our daily lives, which really aren't small at all. I shouldn't even use that word. Small makes them sound insignificant. I should really say, "in the grand moments of our everyday lives." We think of the weddings, the European vacations, as the grand events, but I think it's really the rainy days, where we curl up with hot cocoa and a blanket and watch a family movie, or the snowstorms where we play cards while bread bakes in the oven, or the sunny days where sweat and dirt from the garden is the first thing we feel in the morning that amount to the bounty of our lives.
I'm not hating on the luxury purchases; that would be hypocritical. We can use those items as ways to make our days just a little classier, a little more sophisticated, but the things themselves are not the happiness, and they are certainly not the joy. They don't have enough range to contain those emotions; not for long, at least. Like cups with cracks, joy leaks out of things. But it abides in moments. In moments, joy finds the space, the mystery, the depth to bloom, and then to linger.
Maybe those who came before us felt more connected to life because they lived slow enough to experience it. Because they weren't waiting for the next so-called grand purchase or so-called grand excursion. Like Dorothy, they knew they needn't travel any further than their own backyards to live full, beautiful lives. And they lived those lives surrounded by people. People, once upon a time, were the true measure of a man's worth. What is it that Oz, finally unmasked as a mere mortal, says to the Tin Man about the heart?
“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”
I don't think we live much these days with the intent of truly being loved by others. Not in the real sense of it. Not in the beyond Instagram followers and likes of it. I remember when I was a child, the dinner table was full of people nearly every night, and that really isn't an exaggeration. My father, in his acts and in his character, lived like a man who understood that his measure was in how much he was loved by others. He tended to friendships as if they were award-winning roses. He had things. He could buy nice things. But none of that mattered if the relationships, first and foremost, were not there. What was a nice home without people in it? What was an expensive dining table worth without people around it? Nothing, no matter how much you spent on it.
The sad truth is that it seems we just don't have time for each other anymore. We were supposed to have all this time freed up by our gadgets—by our washing machines and our telephones—yet we apparently have less of it to share than ever.
Which begs the question of what, exactly, are we doing with our time? Increasingly, I have the sinking feeling that we're spinning our wheels, revving round and round in circles that amount to dust, especially in places like New York, where I live, and where the energy is go go go go go go go go go...
But to where?
Like so much of the food we eat today, our days seem empty of the nutrients that give life energy. In any report you read on longevity, community is always, above nutrition and exercise and all the other factors science tells us matter, the principal factor in quality and length of life. Meaning, we need one another. We need one another to thrive, to be healthy, to be well in our minds and in our spirits. Strangely, it's no longer a default that we'll be in community of some kind. We live in an era where someone can go an entire day to work and back home without really speaking to a single person they know. Our ancestors had community, and I'll tell you why they did: They needed it. Their lives depended on it in a very literal sense. And, of course, they lacked the luxury—they lacked the things—that take us away from the moments.
Today, you have to create community. You have to cultivate it. You have to go out and find your people. And then you have to tend to them as if they were award-winning roses.