“My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.”

— Chinese  Proverb

We say that we seek beauty in our lives; but if that is true, why do we spend so much time surrounding ourselves with things that only obscure the view?  Yesterday was a magnificent day!  After long weeks of winter, a brief appearance by Spring blew her warm breath over the snowy land.  Even in the early morning, when I took my walk along the road through the park, a small stream of snow-melt had begun to make its way down a gully toward the creek.  By the time the day called me out for a second time in the afternoon, a little boy only two years old had discovered the now-swollen river — more than a foot wide — and was sending stick-boats on adventures downstream.   His little brother sat in one side of the double stroller that had carried them from home, giggling at his big brother’s antics.  The ball his father had brought from home lay unused in the basket beneath the stroller.  It was no competition for moving water; and we watched as that little guy was entertained for nearly an hour by jumping and laughing and watching his boats rush away.

The stream I had seen as an obstacle as I tried in vain to keep my feet dry now transformed before my eyes into a wild, flowing river that could wash me away to a place long ago that could only be seen through the eyes of a child.  I remembered my first-born son, pant legs rolled up on his overalls, wading barefoot in the gutter near the curb after a summer cloudburst.  I could see the delight in his eyes as he felt the current run over his toes and left his toys behind as he explored.  It was the same delight that now sparkled in the little boy who invented boat after boat and watched them swirl away.  It was the same delight I know must have shone from my own eyes on lazy summer afternoons when I would wade to the center of the river and find my perch on a sun-baked flat rock.  There I would pull out my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and enjoy a fine feast, set to the music of the river’s song.

When did the stream become a nuisance?  When did my dry shoes become more important than the joyful way that water flows, carrying our dreams on boats made of sticks to adventures in lands unknown?  When did the barns I have built as monuments to my own achievement become obstacles that obscured my view of the heavens?  When did my intention to add things to my life that would enhance it and add to the beauty I seek become a heap so large that sometimes I struggle to clear enough space to see beyond it to the things that are real?

Charles Dickens once said:

“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this:  that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.”

Perhaps I spend too much time loving the prefabricated, constructed things in my world.  Perhaps I have forgotten to love things into existence by sending my dreams to unknown lands where beauty touches them and brings them to life.  Perhaps it took an innocent little boy whose eyes saw the snow melt for the very first time to move the obstacles that I had placed in front of my own tired eyes and allow me once again to see what is real — what is beautiful.

As the afternoon faded, the little guy reclaimed his seat in the stroller, stick in his hand, and beamed with the wonder of his world.  It had grown larger as something in him stirred and followed his dreams to adventure.  I turned toward home, heading out in the opposite direction.  As I looked over my shoulder to wave goodbye, I saw it.  Beauty.  It hung in the sky and lifted my heart.

With eyes wide open to the things that endure, I walked with light steps down the path to my home.