"If the day and night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry...that is your success. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality...the true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched."
We are deeply caught up in literature again in my 10th grade Integrated Language Arts class. This week, we're studying the disturbing, compelling, and deeply sad story of Chris McCandless, inspiration for the novel and film, Into the Wild. Written by Jon Krakauer (a must-read), and adapted by Sean Penn, this story recounts the life of McCandless as he embarks on a journey to cleanse himself from the cynicism in society and seek spiritual clarity and ultimate happiness in the wild. He does this in the extremist of senses, burning his identification, giving his $24,000 savings account to charity, and refusing to let anyone in on his plans. Spending years backpacking across the country, Chris forms relationships with many interesting people along the way, and ultimately ends up in the Alaskan wild, with nothing to keep him company but his own mind and the characters in his books.
Although I won't spoil the ending for you in case you've never seen this film, Chris's story not only infuses quotes and excerpts from so many of the authors we read in class, but brings up important, provocative questions about society, happiness, and personal freedom. Students empathize with Chris and relate to his distaste for life, yet contemplate whether or not he's some reckless slacker who needs to assimilate, or a person with meaning, purpose, and all the right ideas. Although leaving my family and living alone in Alaska is about as far from my idea of happiness as running a marathon or ripping my big toenail off, there are pieces of his philosophy I admire and strive to make part of my life.
Like seeing the beauty in the small things. The ever-present details that are as soon as forgotten in a world caught up in the supposed big things.
Or the importance of reflection and self-evaluation. Moments of pause that whisper truths in our silence.
Today is a snow day and I'm enjoying the chance to slow down and be at home with Cruz. It may not be the Alaskan wild, but it definitely feels like it sometimes...
We make messes. Our wild one tears through our house, pulling hot pads from cupboards and books from his shelves at the speed of light. This morning, as I was putting away his kitchen explorations, he came out of the bathroom holding a feminine product he scored from the cupboard under the sink. Sometimes I wonder if my cupboards will ever look the same.
Cruz's highchair has already seen toast with grape jelly, Pillsbury croissants filled with marshmallows and chocolate chips, and finger paint and it's not even 1:00. And Cruz's mouth has met all of that, too...
Even the finger paint.
We made masterpieces and sang 'If You're Happy and You Know It,' in between bites of chocolate croissants. We snuggled and watched last week's episode of Glee, and cheered on daddy as he made his way through the eight-or-so inches of powder on our driveway. And as the snow fell outside, we lived our little wild safe inside.
Thanks for the free day, Mother Nature. We're making good use of it.