Monday, February 28, 2011

The Thorn in My Thumb

How easy it is for the trivial to trump the significant.

Saturday was unusual. Instead of the typical late February rainy day, it was snowing. Rather than reading in the family room beside a warm fire I was straining and slipping down the barely discernible, steep trail to the Salmon River behind our house. Making my way through the leafless and frozen scrub should have been easier than it was in the full foliage of summer a few years ago when I last made the descent. But my Parkinson's disease was more in command now and, taunted by the cold, made the going tougher on the frozen ground. Big snowflakes were being blown in my face by a gusting, icy wind, reminding me it was -10° Centigrade (14 Fahrenheit) with the wind-chill. It was a temperature I was used to when I was young, but now found difficult to ignore.
Despite the weather, the terrain and the effort required, it was a delightful time. I was seeing the sights and the swirling snow through the gleaming eyes of my 2-year-old grandson, PJ. To him it was an adventure of epic proportion, never before experienced. He needed little coaxing as he walked beside me on the flat parts holding onto two fingers of my left hand. Even when negotiating our way down the switchback path to the water he was content to hold my hand. It was only when he encountered the thatched maze of bush branches and fallen trees that he wanted to be carried.
The Salmon River is really not much more than a shallow creek. At this time of year the water is slow-moving enough to be frozen over in some places as it tumbled and twisted its way through the small valley it had formed over the years. We looked for the fish that had been plentiful during warmer months. But finding none PJ and I laughed in the simple pleasure of splashing down the creek bed in my tall rubber boots while he rode in my arms like a prince being ferried across a ford in a river.
While getting down to the river had been somewhat difficult, returning up the slope toting my grandson through the winter jumble of the once well-kept path had me sweating and struggling, resting every few feet. I felt every one of PJ’s 31 pounds, and every day of my 58.7 years. It was then, grabbing for branches while balancing on the incline, that I felt the sharp piercing blackberry thorn enter my thumb.
And there it remains, or at least part of it. The small spike is buried, invisible, somewhere below the surface, evidenced by only the slightest red spot on the surface of my left thumb. Despite its size, it announces its presence constantly.
Life seems to be strewn with its fair share of thorns. They are often invisible and impossible to dislodge but they can cause no end of discomfort and even pain. How can such small, trivial matters sidetrack our attention?

It seems to me that much of life is commandeered by trivia. It is the small things that seem to shanghai our best intentions. But maybe, just maybe, these tiny irritations can be a blessing, a reminder of something or someone important. In my case, the thorn in my thumb gives tribute to the priceless treasure of an hour one wintry day spent exploring the wonder of my backyard world with, and through the eyes of, my only grandson.

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