Like most people, those of us who love the the outdoors like to share our love with others. We want others to see what we see, to love it as we love it. Living in the country I have many opportunities to share nature. We have plenty of room and have built our home so that it is easy to share the outside spaces. My flower garden is a natural draw but so are the surrounding woods and fields, it just takes a bit more creativity to get people to go beyond the garden.
This weekend I had a chance entertain a group of high school youth at our home. The youth, grades seven through tenth started arriving about 6:00 pm. I had told them to dress warmly, in layers and to wear clothes that would wash well. I had no idea how the evening would go.
IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT
If you know people this age, then you know that they see things differently. We adults may see a social deviant or an obviously fashionable challenged person where our youth will see a unique individual or a trend-setter. We look at a stand of trees and shrubs full of birds and small mammals and deer as an opportunity to "be at one with nature," while they are more likely to see a place with no place to plug in their phone chargers or ipod speakers. Life is in the eye of the beholder. What we look at is lit by the same light, but each person's brain interprets that light differently. I am speaking in stereotypes, of course; there are many exceptions, both in circumstances and in people.
One exception is fire. Human beings of all ages, all cultures, all levels of intelligence, maturity and experience are drawn to fire.
Fire has the power to excite us, its light drawing us in like land-bound moths. We creep in as close as we dare, risking the heat that accompanies the light, burning first our thighs then our bottoms as we turn on an invisible rotisserie.
Knowing this I had a fire ready for my youth when they arrived. We had a warm cabin which quickly tempted them inside. It is a place where they can play pool, four-score, cards or use old-fashioned toys where the object is to catch a small wooden ball in a carved wooden cup. The cabin has many lights shining against the hewn poplar and oak log walls. It is comfortable in there. Jars full of bright-colored M&M's are as attractive as the light and are emptied by the handful - but I knew they couldn't resist that fire. It wasn't long before we were gathered around the fire ring in that warming ritual that is as old as fire, itself. With hands outstretched we discussed the night, deciding what to do next.
ADVENTURE IN THE DARK
Our younger generations have always been ready for an adventure. Again, we see things differently. For many of us, maturity often means that we succumb to gravity, remaining still when movement seems hard. Many adults look out on a dimly lit hilly field with a light snow covering cold damp ground as a pretty scene to look at from a comfortable chair beside the fire. My daring youth group saw an opportunity to run! Armed with hats, gloves and unchecked energy they divided up into two groups. The girls (I was a "girl" for the evening.) hid while the boys counted to some random number before deciding it was time to come find us.
We scattered like bugs across the field taking care to cross each other's paths in a vain attempt to hide our footsteps through the snow. There was nowhere to hide except away from the light. We crouched by trees at the field's boundary, ran over hills and dove onto the ground, covering our heads in an effort to avoid the flashlight's beam which meant we were caught. Darkness was our temporary friend.
In time we each were found then we mixed up the teams, some hiding again while others of us searched. My young partner and I stood by the fire counting backwards from three hundred as fast as our lips could move. We became so tickled with our mistakes that we finally gave up and began the search.
The darkness can only contain us so long before we return to the light. Eventually everyone was back in the bright cabin where we resumed our earlier games.
LIGHT AND JOY
I saw these young people, their faces bright with the joy of being together. I know that they have a light we should notice. Sometimes we must look away from what we adults see and follow them, try to see the light as they see it. We should take the time to share what we love, but allow them to show us just what it is that they see.
Many of us have lights that are fading, just because we have failed to change our batteries or refuel the fire. It is hard to remember the energy of our own youth.
I look at this photo of my fourth grade Sunday School class on Easter morning. We were pretty tame that morning in our pastel dresses, while the boys were proud in their new suits. We were just beginning, even younger than my young friends that are responsible for my muddy pants and sore muscles today. I could tumble better back when I was one of those girls in a big flat hat. But I thank the youth of this weekend, the kids that drove me to roll across the snow then lie still on a frozen field, willing my lungs to breath more slowly as I tried to blend into the damp ground. That youth group is responsible for my muddy pants and my sore muscles today but I bear the pain proudly and consider it fuel for my own fire - the fire that they light whenever I am with them when they allow me to see by their light. That is when I learn to love the world just a bit more the way they love it.