Living this Wild & Precious Life

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

It's one of the first questions we ask when we meet someone for the first time.

What do you do for a living?

We don't think anything of it, and answer with our occupation, or profession, or chosen field of study.

I'm a teacher.  

I sell insurance.

I clean teeth.

And it wasn't until I watched the documentary, This Way of Life, that I began to see the flaws in this statement that rolls off the tongue about as robotic as that four letter word sometimes sounds.  When Peter Karena, the patriarch of the New Zealand family depicted in the documentary is asked what he does for a living, he replies naturally with...

I live.  

Huh.  That's an interesting concept.  You mean instead of equating our lives with our jobs, Peter Karena measures his life by living?  Peter, who looks like Johnny Depp's younger (and better looking) brother, and his adorable family of eight are documented over the course of four years.  As viewers, we get an inside look at their lifestyle - one built on simplicity, togetherness, and the magic of the everyday.  They live in New Zealand, tame wild horses, and give their children opportunities to be free and explore their surroundings without holding them back with fear and modern day gaming systems.  While they do have modern amenities (you see them sprinkled throughout their house), they are merely in the backdrop, and they rely more on keen survival skills and love and appreciation for nature than anything material.  At one point, after they lose their house to a fire, they find themselves camping in a caravan before settling in a shed so Peter would have a place for his horses.  Not too long after they migrate again to a more spacious house, Peter's wife Colleen is interviewed.  With six little squirts playing in the background, Colleen says that although they have more room at their house, she misses the small shed.  "The more space you have, the more divided you become," she says.  

This unique perspective and contented way of living life is inspiring.  So inspiring that even my 16 year old students were called into reflection after watching last week.  The Karena's simple, quiet life, their deep connectedness with their kids, and their lack of value in the material world calls into question the fast-paced, over-achieving, technology-obsessed lifestyle that's so emphasized today.   

And did I mention their kids are ADORABLE?!
I'm convinced our lives are too fast paced.  And I'm convinced that in our attempt to be at everything, and be the best at everything, we are missing everything that counts.  So many times, I've wondered how much more I could be accomplishing at school if I'd forgo this little blog and maybe write for an educational-type blog, or publish an article, or write a grant.  And instead of Cruz and I's playdate at Kindermusik every Monday, maybe I should stay at school and grade papers, start a committee, or work on lesson plans.  And instead of reading that book to Cruz at bedtime, maybe I should learn to utilize Twitter and be a part of intellectually stimulating conversations about project-based learning, and competency based assessment, and the Iowa Core Curriculum.


I could play.

I could let Cruz create a masterpiece with finger paints.  Watch him explore the color wheel by painting a picture, his highchair, and the kitchen table, and then just for fun, have a little paint war with Beau just so the three of us could stand in front of the mirror and admire our painted cheeks.

I could eat a Scratch cupcake---two days in a row.  Spend a Thursday 'school night' downtown, sitting in front of the picture window with Cruz, peering through the frosted class at the horse and carriage trolleying up and down Main Street, just waiting for George Bailey to run through the streets yelling, 'Let me live again!'      

I could put off grading those papers one more day to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with Cruz...

...or dance in the aisles of Target to a greeting card that plays 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,' simply because it makes him smile.  I could buy a pirate Sock Monkey that sings Black Eyed Peas, because it's not like I have enough presents for the kid all ready.  I could replace supper with popcorn and strawberry smoothies from Target, followed by a beater-full of sugar cookie frosting for dessert.

I could spend every day living this life out as deliberately as I can, being a faithful follower of Christ, and loving my boys with all of my might.  Because at the end of the day, everything else will fall into place.

Having Cruz and becoming a mom has taught me more about life than any other stage in my life.  I've learned what it truly means to put someone else's needs far above my own.  I've learned that kids grow entirely too fast, and if you're not careful, you'll miss the good stuff.  And I've learned to let go of the details that used to keep my boat afloat---whether that means that sticky something I've neglected to wipe from the countertop, or that parent email that will just have to wait until Monday.

I'm far from there, but I'm striving to get closer.

This week, I want to pay attention.  I want to pay attention to the magic of Christmas through the eyes of my little sprite.  I want to experience the joy, and live out this wild and precious life in every way I can.  

..."So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your ONE WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE?"