Native Son: January 2015
by Steven Chamblee
Let It Go
Every tall tree must fall, if only to create room for its own progeny. –SLC
MMXIV was a great year for me. I travelled many thousands of miles and always returned home safely. Saw many wonderful faces and lots of amazing places. Did lotsa cool stuff. Even so, I know that I must let it go if I am to fully experience MMXV.
Moved my in-laws from Oregon to Texas back in May. Cleaned out a house they had made home for 42 years, packed it into a truck, and drove it 2,547 miles. (I can just see Huddleston checking this on MapQuest and thinking, “But it’s only 2,064 miles…”; to which I reply, “Yeah, but you miss all the good stuff going that way.”) After all the dust settled and the prune juice wore off, I was left tired, inspired, and grateful that I live in this magnificent country. As for my in-laws, they looked ahead at their life’s road and knew they had to let go of the past.
Three weeks ago, I sat alone in the Horticulture room at Tarrant County College. My thoughts were pensive: “The semester is now officially over, and my students have all departed, scattered to the wind like seeds. I did my best to sow fertile ground, but I know it is up to seed and circumstance for them to grow into their place in the forest … or will they end up like me, grass growing in the meadow? I never quite fit in with the herd of humanity, never quite felt comfortable with the whole 2.5 kids, 15th and 30th paydays, and a house with a picket fence in the suburbs thing. Never felt deeply rooted, certainly not for 42 years. Son of an Air Force father, I guess I learned at an early age to let it go.
Two weeks ago, I attended Henry Painter’s retirement party at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Henry walked into the garden one day as a young man and decided to stay for, coincidently, 42 years. He has stood firm at the director’s helm through storms and sunny days, budgets fat and thin, employee turmoil and people of peace. Ironically, it is not the stress of the job that brought him to his decision to let it go, but a handsome young grandson. Henry knows that childhood is as fleeting as autumn leaves in a windstorm; it will be over almost before it starts … best be in the moment.
I entered the front door of McKinney’s Heard Natural Science Museum last week, and stepped right into a puddle of déjà vu. I opened that same door on a Sunday afternoon back in June of 1996, to anonymously scope out the place before interviewing for a job there the next day. Eighteen magnificent months later, I let it go to pursue another dream. Eighteen years later, I am anonymous again. Might sound a bit sad, but it’s just “regeneration,” one of Mother Nature’s greatest lessons … which can be re-phrased as, “Let it go.”
Just yesterday, my spine stiffened a bit as a woman walked into a holiday party I attended. She used to be my boss, and I always felt like she had been critical of me and unappreciative of my efforts. It was pretty awkward for a while, but when we both laughed at someone else’s joke, I began to see things differently. I thought of the things I wish I had done differently (better) in my life, the people I should have appreciated more, and how we all are just doing the best we can with what God gave us. Another joke, another simultaneous laugh, and I realized we probably had more in common than not. A few minutes later, we exchanged a sincere smile across the table and all of that resentment I have so stubbornly carried for so long simply dropped off my shoulders, off my heart. I even got a little teary-eyed in the moment, and fully understood how foolish I have been to burden myself with that big bale of righteous indignation for so long. We exchanged a genuine hug at the end of the evening, and it felt so good to finally let it go. Best Christmas present ever.
All of this reminds me of one of the most amazing stories I know, one that I have wanted to share with you for a long time, but wanted to wait until the time was right.
A friend of mine is the mother of a professional football star. Years ago, she and her husband had planned a wonderful life for themselves and their children, until cancer stepped in and changed everything. As the husband lay in the hospital bed, knowing the end was at hand, he arrived at an epiphany: “I know I must leave this world for the next thing to happen.” He knew he had to let it go. He passed within hours. Her old dream shattered, the wife soon realized she couldn’t put the pieces back together herself. She packed up her life and moved to a new place. She couldn’t know that it was a place where her son would meet an enthusiastic football coach who would recognize and develop her son’s natural athletic talent and lead him to a rewarding career in the NFL. Heart-breaking as it was, that father was right.
So we all stand here at the precipice of MMXV. Do we boldly jump into the future or stay standing at the edge, afraid to leave our past? Do we continue to carry our bale of indignation … or let it go? Do we hold onto old dreams, or embrace new ones?
We all have different journeys, and each person must decide for him- or herself. As for me, I want to lose some weight, plant 100 trees, spend a day at Venice Beach, finish my book, mend another fence, and eat fresh eggs from my new flock of chickens. Whatever you decide, I wish you a peaceful, prosperous, and adventurous new year. Allons!
Come out and breathe in the winter beauty of Chandor Gardens! Go to www.chandorgardens.com for details. Just take I-20 west to exit 409, hang a right, go 2.1 miles and hang a left on Lee Avenue. Head straight 12 blocks and you’re driving in the gates. Call 817-361-1700 for more information.
I can always use another road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come out and speak to your group sometime. I’m low-maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town too small. Just send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work something out.