counterbalancing the evils

Me and the family just got back from a week in Hawaii. It’s the longest trip we’ve taken together, distance-wise. And it is nice to get away.

It’s also nice to come home. Settling in at home again, I picked up my (audio) book of Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, since I’ve been nibbling away at it all year. I discovered that Charles had come to end of his voyage, and he was ready to give his readers his opinion on traveling.

He is a great observer, after all. The whole book is filled with his close observations of what he sees. The meta-significance of his travelers would not escape his analysis. In Victorian style, he gives his advice on travel:

“No doubt it is a high satisfaction to behold various countries and the many races of mankind, but the pleasures gained at the time do not counterbalance the evils.”

It’s not for everyone. And he didn’t even have to deal with Jetlag! I’m not going to be myself for a while. Except I did really enjoy seeing new things, and stepping outside my usual life. I escaped to the Green World and came back transformed.

Lots of people talk about their summer vacations, and not many of them are able to adequately express their changed perspective. I am grateful to my serendipitous reading of Darwin to save me from trying. After all, I’m still worn out from all that relaxing and I’m trying to merge back into the high-speed freeway of my life

My essay this week will stand on the shoulders of another.

His final word about traveling, is that it “ought to teach him [the traveller] distrust, but at the same time he will discover how many truly kind-hearted people there are, with whom he never before had, or ever again will have any further communication, who yet are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance.”

In addition to seeing new things and understanding this world we live in, we also get to learn that the world is full of really nice people. When we get vulnerable to others, it seems to allow others–from all over–to step up and be kind.

For a man who was about to change humanity’s perception of their place in the universe, he began with a great appreciation for people’s good nature.

Second Chance

In the middle of summer, my strawberry bed is producing well. It’s a fight between the birds and me to see who will get the ripe red berries first. I have tried to leave the berries on their mother plants, to let the green recede to full redness. The birds are not as patient as I, and will peck at the red bits if they see it.

Berries that are hidden under a leaf can stay intact, but the brighter they are the more likely they will be seen.


I’ve learned to pick them faster, or I won’t have any. I’m not always prepared to eat them right away. I would leave a little pile of pink-red-greenish berries on table or the counter.

Simon cat found them, and would bat the round things off to the floor. Bad kitty!

New plan: put the delicious berries in a dish.

And there the berries are safe, waiting for me to wash and eat them.

I know strawberries are best when fresh, and I have a treasure from my garden.

I was getting ready to eat them, really, when I see the berries have dissolved into rottenness.

I have failed. I am too late and I have lost my chance.

My berries will not fulfill their strawberry destiny. All the work I put into building the strawberry bed, installing the watering system, and planting them –it has all come to nothing.

Why did I let this moment pass? Why did a squander all the work that made these berries?

I’d been looking forward to these berries for months! Why did I falter right at the moment they were at long last ready?

What’s wrong with me?

And then I remember.

I will get another chance. Very soon.

The new green berries will ripen. The whole system of the world is fashioned around second chances.

Each strawberry is a poem of abundance–how many seeds does one berry really need? There are more than enough.

True, strawberry season will end when the cold hits. But it will begin again.

I’ll do the work to keep my harvest, but I can be a little easier on myself. There is margin for error.