The Tree, Not the Blossom

There are many lessons for us in every moment of our lives. We often neglect the importance of these moments because they seem so ordinary. For some reason we need our lives to hang in the balance in order to reflect deeply enough. This is probably the reason Zen Buddhism became so popular in the samurai class, and why the cherry blossom was such a powerful symbol as well. Many samurai fell in the fields of battle while still in the spring of their lives, and the process to be at peace with that sacrifice at a moment’s notice required a great deal of reflection.

This year I had the opportunity to accompany my daughter on a journey to Kalamazoo, Michigan. She had a synchronized ice skating competition in late January. When the location and timing was announced, I reacted with, “Why would they schedule the competition in Kalamazoo in January? The weather is not ideal.” My wife laughed and acknowledged my logic, but it wasn’t given much seriousness until the week before the competition when a once-in-a-generation Polar Vortex was predicted to descend on the entire area. My wife began to express concern and her anxiety for our trip and safety began to increase. Winter Storm Jayden was its name, and on Monday our flight was cancelled. We rebooked, and on Tuesday that flight was cancelled; we rebooked, and on Wednesday that flight was cancelled. The competition was on Friday, and we were supposed to be in Kalamazoo Wednesday night. We were running out of options. We did, finally, get on a flight that arrived Thursday and we were able to make the competition, as was everyone from my daughter’s team. The driving was treacherous. We witnessed the aftermath of many cars losing control, and observed a red mid-size SUV thread the needle between two other cars on its way into the piled snow along the road’s edge, a soft landing for a frightening event that became a reminder for me to drive slowly and carefully.

At many points in the process, I considered cancelling the trip. My wife declared that she was, “Calling it.” The trip and the competition was not worth our lives. What is worth our lives? We are here for only an instant compared to the span of time that is the universe. What is worth our lives? The question repeated itself at every weather report, flight cancellation, and mile driven along the treacherous roads. What is worth our lives?

Living is the simple answer. Living is worth our lives. I hope to see you on the mats, soon.