December 28, 2012

Just To Be Alive Is A Grand Thing

What is life? It is the breath of the buffalo in the winter time.

Linda was sleeping beside me when it happened. First the bed shook in gentle, rhythmic waves. Then the whole building creaked as if stretching its dry bones. My heart started thumping at my chest. Then I heard/felt a low, ongoing rumble. I knew that if the rumbling faded, we would be alright.

But if the rumbling continued, or worse, intensified, it would be time to evacuate our home (we live in the tsunami zone). That is a particularly scary situation with Linda relying on a wheelchair. Thankfully the rumbling, and shaking stopped, the result of a 3.3 earthquake with an epicentre about 60 km east of our location. Linda didn't even wake up so I had to calm my heart on my own.

The late night earthquake not only made me go over our emergency plan in my head, but it was also a powerful reminder of the brief and fragile nature of our tenure on earth. Although it is the fashion lately to consider ourselves omnipotent with technological wonders, the fact remains that we are under the sway of much more powerful forces than our puny little gadgets.

With all the things that can go wrong, weather, natural disaster, or health-wise, it is a wonder that anyone is ever safe or carefree for any period of time. When we do experience long stretches of security and good health, we should pause to consider our good fortune for it could change in just one moment.

Even when things aren't going so good, we can still take solace in the fact that we are alive. Not one to waste this precious gift, Agatha Christie said, "I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, and racked with sorrow. But through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."

Because I have the time to do such things, today I ruminated on the humbling rumbling last night. I was feeling an increased vulnerability and humility, but also an awareness of the transitory nature of life.

It made me think of one of my favourite quotes from Chief Crowfoot of the Siksika First Nation, who on his deathbed in 1890 asked, "What is Life?" His answer was,
"It is the flash of a firefly in the night. 
It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time. 
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass 
and loses itself in the Sunset."
I didn't do much more than relax and meditate on life today, because I could feel that just to be alive is a grand thing. I am committed to enjoying it fully while it lasts, however long (or brief) it may be.


  1. Anonymous2/05/2013

    Too bad so many people are caught up with the "despairingly, acutely miserable" part of life that they forget how much beauty there is in everyday life.

  2. Great story! I'm writing a book and need a buffalo art piece. I really like the one you've got here. Is it your work or can you help me get in contact with the author? I'd like to receive permission to use this.

    Thanks, Paul


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