I have a favorite book. We all do, I’m sure. Mine is called The Little Prince by Antione De Saint Exupery, you probably know it. I never tire of the wisdom contained in that one little story. You know, the kinds of insights we grown-ups collect from those precious little people in our lives.
“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
…that kind of stuff. The kind of stuff that gives you cause to pause and consider the little things in life, that really, when you think about it, are not that small after all.
The wise words of this Little Prince were very much in my head and in my heart this past weekend. For his birthday, my hubby wanted me to take a day off work. I never take a day off work, especially this time of year. It is a very busy time, as big things are happening in the little world of my kinder-crew. I tend to reserve my precious days off for once-in-a-lifetime events, such as weddings and funerals. But all he wanted for his birthday was an extra day, to go for a walk, find a view, camp under the stars and photograph the heavens…well, how could I say no to that. And quite frankly, celebrating someone special is certainly worthy of taking some time off.
So, we packed up the car and ventured out into some new territory. We decided to explore a little in the Inyo Range, on the eastern side of Owen’s Valley. Our destination was Papoose Flats, which we hoped would offer a big expanse of sky for the Milky Way and a view of the Sierra from the Inyo Crest. We were not disappointed.
The road in wasn’t exactly an easy ride, but it sure was pretty to look at with bunches of wildflowers paving the way. It was a clear and beautiful day and we found ourselves the most perfect campsite next to a very picturesque rock formation. Our campsite accommodations even included a window with a view of the snow-capped Sierra off in the distance.
We had no goals for the day and it was so relaxing knowing we had this precious gift of time to wander and meander. After setting up camp, I lazed and snoozed while hubby walked about scouting out potential locations for that night’s galactic photo shoot. I must say, it was heavenly, that lazing and snoozing! I honestly cannot recall the last time I had a nap. Sometimes it is the simplest things in life that bring the most delight.
“What matters most are the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them…Happiness doesn’t lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes.”
The afternoon was spent wandering the sage-covered landscape. There were quite a few wildflowers scattered about, which was a pleasant surprise after my dismay at the idea that flower photos would not be had this year. Desert wildflowers fascinate me. The places you find them, the conditions in which they grow, the beauty and color of those tiny blooms in contrast to the harsh, rugged environment. They are so adaptable, those little flowers, with a certain sort of strength. I can’t help but admire that.
Eventually, we meandered back to camp, cooked up some healthy backcountry grub and waited for the sun to set. I do so enjoy those particular times of waiting. Moments of quiet calm. Talking, thinking, pondering, wondering what magic nature might have in store. There is something about those moments of pause, whether you are waiting for the sun to set or the moon to rise, whether you are watching clouds dance or listening to rain fall. There is just something about those naturescapes that open the mind and heart in such a way that one can experience an entire spectrum of thought and emotion in a single moment.
Standing in a sea of sage as the light began to fade, I was feeling grateful for the little things, to be sure. Filled with a feeling of contentment as I pondered the gifts in life: love, friendship, adventure, peace, freedom, joy. Sorrow…
Yes, even sorrow I consider to be a gift. For how can you experience joy if you have never known sorrow? Can you recognize peace if you have never seen unrest? If you have never experienced loneliness, can you truly appreciate love and friendship? It is hard to explain, but it is in these moments of fading light that I often experience this amazing sense of harmony in opposition. For me, it is the moments of sadness in the setting sun that ultimately create that harmony.
“You know–one loves the sunset when one is so sad…”
No doubt we all have a Little Prince in our lives. That soul who makes an appearance in your world, touches your heart, opens your mind, brings those beautiful gifts to your realm and leads you down a certain path of understanding. Some princes stay long in one’s life, some but a moment. The thing about a Little Prince is that one day he has to leave. It is a sad day to experience. It is a difficult day to revisit. But hopefully, your Little Prince will eventually lead you to a point of balance where that harmony occurs within your joy and sorrow.
“Six years have already passed since my friend went away from me…If I try to describe him here, it is to make sure that I do not forget him. To forget a friend is sad. Not everyone has had a friend.”
Our clan has such a Little Prince and this particular day of this particular sunset, marked his departure from our world. It was a day of sadness, to be sure. His time with us was far too brief. I do believe it is naive of me to imagine that there is any beauty in the sorrow for those who brought him into this world. For I can only imagine the joy contained in that experience. And the agony in his loss, I cannot begin to fathom. But it is my hope, that this Little Prince has led us all to a place where this day of memorial is also a day of celebration. I like to believe that mourning his death is to relive his birth. And how can you not celebrate that.
“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”
It can be hard to talk about this kind of loss, a bit of taboo to mention the Little Prince lost. But he was a beautiful soul, the likes of which you have never seen. And to find myself on that day, surrounded by utter beauty and solitude, to have that time to spend in dedication and celebration of his beautiful life, to experience the joy and sorrow in a sunset, to seek solace in the stars…it was one of those simple pleasures. A little thing, yet not so small after all.
“All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems… But all these stars are silent. You-you alone will have stars as no one else has them… In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night..You, only you, will have stars that can laugh! And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me… You will always be my friend.”
Today is a day for honoring our mothers, so naturally there is a certain mother very much on my mind. She is like those tiny desert flowers with that certain sort of strength, blooming in the most unforgiving of environments, bringing such beauty and color to the world around her. And to all mothers who have survived the loss of a child, big or small, I stand in total awe and admiration of your beauty and your strength. On this special day, may you have peace in your heart.