Beyond Your Backyard: A time for reflection

We were driving home from Mankato the other day and a Christmas song came on the radio. As the music played, one key verse stuck out to me:
“A weary world rejoices…”

If I had to describe 2021 in one word, it would be “busy.” I felt pulled in a thousand different directions, disconnected, and with a plate overly full of tasks not turkey. As I reflect back on the year, I find myself thinking that that word is a word I want to avoid in the New Year. Because “busy” and “overwhelmed” is not how I want to live my life. I wonder now why I was so busy and busy doing what and for whom?

Because you see, busyness doesn’t feed my soul or offer me the time to be present with my friends, my family, and my coworkers. It doesn’t allow me the time to treasure beautiful moments or learn from heartbreaking ones. It just casts my life in an endless wave of “doing” without appreciating.

Snow covered prairie grasses guarded by bur oaks at Flandrau State Park.

Snow covered prairie grasses guarded by bur oaks at Flandrau State Park.

So, as we close out another year I am going to take some key lessons from the prairie: to focus on moments, moments that make my life and this world better. The prairie faces so much adversity. A crushing amount if we’re being honest. It stands against climate change; pesticides threatening the microbes and insects that are responsible for its healthy soil foundation and that ultimately feed the daily symphony of grassland birds and other wildlife; habitat loss as its borders are carved away when people find something more useful for the land to be than the very thing that gives us life by providing clean water, air, function, and connection.

And yet, when the wind blows it down, the prairie rises back up. She continues to store tons of carbon, clean our drinking water and air, build healthy soil, and filter runoff whether anyone is watching or not—whether anyone is thankful or not. Her story provides me with hopeful and humble moments. If the prairie can stand against all that and still be brave enough to continue and send her various children free into the world in the form of butterflies, beetles, snakes, badgers, birds, and bison, knowing the dangers they will face because they are hers—then it seems like I can endeavor to do just about anything.

Have you ever experienced a moment of quiet peace? Mine often happen early in the morning before anyone else is awake. When the house is quiet and the heat first kicks on. I’m picking up small messes from the day before and turning the hot water on for tea and coffee. As I softly pad through the house, I can hear the sounds of my family sleeping. And suddenly, I find myself filled with gratitude. Gratitude for a small moment of peace. I wonder if the prairie’s life is a collection of small, grateful moments. The sun comes up, the grasses and flowers shed their dew, the voles and mice busy themselves collecting seeds, stopping occasionally to listen for hawks and snakes, the snake suns itself on a rock left behind by receding glaciers, the bison walk together, making new habitat spaces as they graze and wallow, the sun sets while the cicadas serenade the world into sleep. A collection of small moments, connected to one another by the land they call home.

Small moments of connection and present hope make the whole—That’s the lesson I’m going to carry with me into the New Year.