Schrödinger’s October

By the time this column appears in print, we’ll either be tired of shoveling or cynical about weather forecasters.

No surprise. That’s how October in Colorado works.

My friends from warmer climes often do a double take when they hear that a Front Range “snow season” runs from October to May. But even those words don’t really capture the true experience. The symbol of those eight months isn’t a snow shovel, but a pair of dice. You listen to the forecasts, buy out the bread and milk at the grocery stores (and somehow it’s always the bread and milk) and then roll ‘em.

Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes the big Snowmageddon forecasts produce nothing but a dusting of flakes and an ironic “I survived” post on social media.

Other times, it’s no laughing matter.

I grew up here. I remember a lot of Halloweens spent with a winter coat pulled over a truly awesome costume. (Hercules just doesn’t look the same when he’s bundled up against the cold.) But the year that really drove it home for me was 1997, when we got slammed by a late-October blizzard right before the Broncos were due to leave town for a game in Buffalo.

In those John Elway days, every bit of Bronco news was Serious Business. And so, in the midst of relentlessly raging snow and cars stacking up on Peña Boulevard, broadcasters would break in with the latest escapades. Kicker Jason Elam caught a ride to team headquarters with a group of fans. Safety Steve Atwater joined the rest of the team by snowmobile. Somehow, incredibly, everyone got out of town, stumbled into their hotel at 1 a.m. in the morning, and then  staggered their way through an overtime win that afternoon.

So yeah. We know. Feast or famine. Snow or “Snow big deal.”

And the thing is, we have to be ready for both. Like Schrödinger’s cat, the fabled “Chance of Snow” isn’t really alive or dead until we open the box and find out.

But then, isn’t that how we live our lives anyway?

We like to think we’ve minimized uncertainty. We make plans, we check forecasts, we schedule out our day. Everything’s in control.

Until it’s not.

The reminders, inevitably, come in. Sometimes as small as the storm that cancels a birthday picnic in the park. Sometimes as big as the injury or illness that transforms a lifetime.

We may have planned a route. But we’re not the ones driving the car.

So what do we do?

First, be aware. Always. Both in the moment-by-moment “situational awareness” sense and the bigger-picture sense of seeing what’s out there, not just what you want to see. Not only will that keep you ready – well, readier – for the unexpected, but it also reminds you of how much great stuff there is to see around you and how many situations your gifts and talents might be able to improve.

Second, stick together. I stress this a lot, maybe more than anything else I’ve ever written in this column. But it’s that important. Whether it’s shoveling our neighbor’s walks or standing up for our neighbors’ needs, we depend on each other. It’s how we weather a crisis or enhance a celebration.

We’re not going to see everything. But with eyes open and hands clasped, just maybe we can see enough.

Even in a stormy October.

Pouring Down, Rising Above

The rain just wouldn’t stop. 

When I lived in Kansas, I learned what that meant. Hard thunderstorms could make a mess. But steady, unceasing rain could be worse. When water has time to gather its strength, it transforms everything around it. Roads become rivers, concrete dividers become popcorn, lives become changed. 

I thought I knew that lesson. 

Ten years ago, I learned how little I knew. 

If you were here in September 2013, you know what I mean. If you weren’t, I’m not sure I can ever explain it properly. That handful of days belongs to another world, one where events flowed as ceaselessly as the St. Vrain and sleep was a rare and precious commodity. A world transformed. 

Longmont became a city divided. Lyons became an island chain. Missouri Avenue turned into the “Missouri river” as the water rose. Hover Street became impassible, though that didn’t stop some from sloshing their way across on foot anyway, struggling from south to north as emergency workers yelled at them to turn back. 

We held on as the water did its work. 

And even after the waters fell, we weren’t quite the same.

I don’t just mean the physical damage, though rebuilding from that became a years-long effort. Passing through the flood changes people. You don’t just let go of what happened, even if your home and family were well out of the floodway.

A few months later, when the spring rains began, I think most of us paused for just a moment. I remember watching the runoff pool and flow in a gutter near Longmont High School, unable to look away as my mind went back to higher waters and faster flows. 

Call it a reflex. A readiness. A ghost.

But we also carried away something else. We learned that we truly had neighbors. 

It’s easy to forget sometimes. Easy to ignore the lives that pass so near our own or even to clash with them. We divide, separate, watch the world with wary eyes.

But the good stuff never went away. Neighbors still exist. And when the waters rose, we found each other, reached out and helped. 

Even the St. Vrain couldn’t separate that.

It shouldn’t take a flood. Or a blizzard, or a wildfire, or any of the other traumatic moments that throw us into each other’s lives. But then, those are the moments that boil down all the choices and throw everything into stark relief. Where it’s clear that we either stand together or else we might not stand at all.

And so we reach for snow shovels. Or sandbags. Or masks.  One way or another, we reach for a neighbor’s hand and make each other stronger.

The world does its worst. And we rediscover our best.

And each time, I hope the discovery will last a little longer. It’s too important to rise and fall like a passing creek, full past bursting in a crisis and parched to the point of drought otherwise.

I said it at the beginning: sudden storms come and go, but steady effort transforms. That’s true of more than just rain. If we keep that sort of steady focus on each other, that daily commitment to our neighbors, we can reshape our world.

We just need to gather our strength. And not let up.

Long may we rain.

Fire-Forged

It’s amazing how perspective can shift in a week.

Just a few days ago, the hot news in the headlines was the defeat of a soccer powerhouse. The U.S. Women’s World Cup team – two-time defending champions! –  made their earliest ever departure from the tournament, knocked out by Sweden in a game that came down to a fraction of an inch. For a team that had never finished lower than third, this was a Moment, one that could not be looked away from.

I’d planned to write about that moment. And then came the unthinkable words.

“Maui’s on fire.”

By now, we’ve all seen the photos, read the headlines. Lahaina burned to the ground. At least 80 dead as I write this, surely more now. Stark scenes from a place of beauty, transformed into devastation.

In a weird way, the news was all too familiar. Every Coloradan knows much too much about wildfires and the destruction they can bring. With just a spark in the wrong place, the whole grim parade of events can start anew: evacuations, containment efforts, choking air, the memories of a lifetime reduced to ash.  

It’s lit the Mountain West over and over, seared itself into our brains and our reflexes. The smell of smoke, imprinted on a state’s DNA.

This summer, we’d actually allowed ourselves to breathe a bit. After all, this year we had rain. And rain. And rain again. High rivers and flooding produce their own dangers, of course (don’t we know THAT well?) but at least one old enemy could be kept at bay for a while.

So when those old painful images reappeared, this time in the heart of an island paradise, it seemed surreal. Even that word doesn’t go far enough, I know, for those who have ties to Hawaii … an out-of-place nightmare made far too real.

There’s a lot that’s still ahead. There always is. Disaster only seems to know two speeds: heartbreakingly fast when it’s in the moment and painstakingly slow in the days and weeks and months after, as people try to recover, rebuild and learn just what the heck happened.

But as Maui’s story continues, there’s one other shadow of the past that’s been revived. A welcome one.

In every disaster, we re-learn the meaning of the word “neighbor.” Not just the person whose property happens to bump against yours, but the person who needs help that you can give. Time and again, we rise up to help someone else rise.

Some have given money. Some have given sweat. People have reached out to schools, to families, to animal shelters. And in every act, large and small, we do more than rebuild an area. We rebuild ourselves as well – the idea that wherever we are, whoever we may be, we share a tie that makes us one.

We recognize a common pain. And in meeting it together, we make all of us stronger.

It’s a Moment. One worth more than any championship.

The cameras will eventually move on. That’s the nature of news and of human attention. But it’s not the end of the story. And it should never be the end of that spirit.

We’re a community. A family. A team.

And whatever lies ahead, we’ll pass through the fire together.   

Crowning Thought

When I peeked in briefly on the coronation coverage, I didn’t expect to break down in laughter.

Not at King Charles or the ceremony, I promise. I’m enough of a theatre person to love a bit of pomp and circumstance. And His Majesty’s ears will never get a joke from me – after all, I have enough funny-looking facial features of my own.

No, the part that made me laugh came during the chit-chat by the journalists (of course). An English commentator was trying to explain the benefit of a king to his American colleagues.  “There’s value,” he said, “in having a leader who is not political, who can bring the country together.”

Sorry. I can’t even write that with a straight face. And like any good laugh, it works on several levels.

First, if you’ve seen social media at all, you know that we’re perfectly capable of dividing ourselves on anything, political or otherwise. The color of a dress. The use of an apostrophe. The need for a 27th Star Wars movie.

Second, there’s a minor history of English kings who … how do I put this? … didn’t exactly unite the country. (We even remember one of them briefly each year on July 4.) Even leaving aside civil wars and revolutions, being unelected doesn’t mean you’re non-controversial. Just ask a certain group of nine Americans in black robes.

What he really meant, of course, is a leader who’s powerless. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

These days, unless you’re a member of the royal staff or the Archbishop of Canterbury, there’s not a lot a King or Queen of England can do to affect your daily life. They’re a presence. A face. A walking sense of continuity that gives some speeches and attracts a lot of tourists.

For decades, that’s had some people debating about whether the United Kingdom needs a king at all. That’s a fair question – strictly speaking, nobody needs a king, after all. But as with many things in Britain, utility is only part of the question.

Since a British monarch lacks official power – practically, if not legally – it isn’t their accomplishments that will get them remembered. It’s themselves. Those of us who loved Elizabeth, and there were many, did so not because of what she did but because of who she was or seemed to be.

She earned respect. Not just because of a crown or a loyalty oath, but from her own character. And that meant her words lingered a little longer than they otherwise might have.

Nobody needs a monarch – but everybody needs someone who can speak to them frankly, without any ability to coerce. That’s the sign of a good neighbor, whether they wear a crown or a Broncos hat. (And if you just tried to picture QE2 in a Broncos hat, I’m terribly, terribly sorry.)

In that regard, we could all stand to give each other the royal treatment.

So I wish the best to Charles Philip Arthur George Paddington Skywalker. (Hey, I only promised not to joke about his ears.) At best, he’s in a position to be a considerate voice in often-difficult times. At worst, there’s not a lot he can do to hurt anything.

Either way, here’s to all the other considerate voices that crown our own lives. American or Briton, royalist or egalitarian, we all need that.

And that’s no laughing matter.

Binding Chords

When it came time for the nation’s obituaries and tributes to sing out with David Crosby’s story, one note kept getting played again and again.

I don’t mean his role in co-founding two legendary bands. I’m not referring to his often stormy personal life and recovery, his engaging presence on social media, or even his Yosemite Sam mustache. All those got talked about, to be sure, and more besides … but one element kept rising to the top in story after story and quote after quote.  

 “Master of Harmony.”   

“… a harmony singer virtually without equal …”

“… his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius.”

That’s a legacy I can appreciate.

If you’ve checked into this column before, you may have noticed that I tend to carry a torch for life’s supporting players. Like the stage manager who keeps a play moving behind the scenes. Or movie characters like Chewbacca who have to play their intentions with zero dialogue. Or the helpful neighbors who quietly make an entire community work without fanfare.

In each case, they’ve mastered the art of harmony. And these days, it can be a rare gift indeed.

In music, harmony’s a balancing act. You need to support the melody without overwhelming it, to hear and provide the notes that will lift someone else up … or, in some groups, that will lift everyone up together. That’s an art.

Now I don’t want to portray Crosby as some sort of selfless monk. That he decidedly was not. But he had the ability to hear how one plus one could equal so much more than two. And coming from his often chaotic life, that harmony may have been all the more remarkable.

But as I hinted above, the art of harmony doesn’t have to stop with music. You don’t need to be a rock star – or even a folk rock star – to make it work. Just someone who can listen for a need and fill it, without needing to seize the spotlight.

Yeah, “just” that.

The challenge is that we live in a world where everyone’s a lead, or wants to be. Step online and every breath of social media is about promoting your own wants and beliefs. Hit the highway, and you’ll find a dozen cars who need your piece of the lane right NOW. And while it’s certainly important to take care of yourself, it’s easy to get sucked into looking no farther than your own skin. If my life is OK and normal, then that’s what matters, right?

But taking that step back can make all the difference.  Three melodies all going their own way without heed for anyone else is a recipe for discord. But when the same three musicians tune to each other and listen, the results can be more powerful than any one of them could have been alone.

In life or music, harmony doesn’t just help the lead. It helps the entire group.

I hope we all get the opportunity to learn that. After all, if rock-star egos can manage it for however brief a period, surely the rest of us have got a chance at getting it right.

It’s worth trying.

I just hope the mustache is optional.

Blitzed

Only a game.

We invoke the words easily. In resignation after a hard loss. In disbelief when a player signs for millions. Even in frustration when uprooting a partner from the couch, AKA Fantasy Football Central. “Good grief, it’s only a game!”

But we’re not used to whispering them in shock. Not until last Monday, anyway, when reality hit harder than any linebacker. A player fell. A nation watched. And the bright lights of the NFL faded into the background. When the league said the game would stay canceled, no one was really surprised.

After all, it’s only a game.

And at a moment like that, so many things loom larger than the score.

**

You didn’t have to be a Buffalo Bills fan to feel it. I’ve never been within 100 miles of Buffalo. My wife barely follows football at all. Both of us were stunned when Damar Hamlin collapsed from an on-field cardiac arrest. We had a lot of company.

After all, sports has a way of insulating us from reality. It’s entertainment, and like any good movie, play or TV show, it plunges us into another world for a couple of hours. Life’s frustrations fall away for a little while, subsumed in the action.

But once in a while, the walls don’t hold.

Maybe it’s an earthquake. Or an attack. Or a young man abruptly going down like his strings were cut. Whatever the cause, reality breaks the film, stops the play, shakes us out of the dream. We get reminded that we’re not watching a video game. That the helmets and numbers are people, as vulnerable in some ways as any of us.

We’ve spent hours, months, years watching these people. But sometimes it’s only in these shattering moments that we really see them.

And that’s in a world of cameras and spotlights. When we walk back into our world, surrounded with everyday people instead of superstars … how much more do we still not see?

**

We all do it. Not maliciously, but we do. Faces in our life become like cars on the highway, a blur only noticed when one of them veers near our lane. We go through the routine, used to everyone playing their part, not really looking closely.

And then something happens to make us pay attention and … we look. We see the struggles below the surface, maybe for the first time. And we wonder how we could miss it for so long.

It shouldn’t take a crisis. But attention takes work. And it’s a work we often put off until we have to.

So this year, if you do nothing else, take a moment to see. Friends. Neighbors. Family. The stranger on the street. Look up from your own world and into someone else’s. Find the connection that makes us human.

It doesn’t have to be somber or grim. It may even lead to great joy or comfort. But it won’t start by itself. We have to be the ones to do it and to go where it calls.

That’s how we build a neighborhood. A community. A nation.

A family.

**

As I write this, Hamlin seems to be on the mend. It’s a relief, to be sure. And long after most of us have forgotten his name, I hope we remember the care and connection that the moment sparked in so many of us.

After all, it’s only a game.

And when we break out from our own sidelines, there’s a lot that’s worth seeing.

To the Letter

This December, Missy and I have been reading someone else’s mail. And it’s been magical.

“Ok, Missy, are you ready for Father Christmas?”

The eager smile as I opened the book said it all.

Every year, our bedtime reading with Missy takes in at least one holiday classic. We’ve done “The Story of Holly and Ivy,” “How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” and even “A Christmas Carol.” But given how much Missy enjoys magical stories, I’m kind of surprised it took us this look to reach for “Letters From Father Christmas.”

If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s a slim volume by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, the Hobbit guy. His children, like many, wrote letters to Father Christmas each year … and in their case, Father Christmas wrote them back. The resulting correspondence from the North Pole (which included hand-drawn pictures) stretched from the 1920s until the early 1940s, when the last of the four young Tolkiens finally grew beyond “stocking age.”

During that period, they could count on getting all the latest news. One year might be the humorous misadventures of what the well-meaning North Polar Bear had broken THIS year. Another might tell of an attempt by goblins to raid the storehouses. And always, whether it was a quick note or a long tale, there’d be the sense of so much going on behind the scenes.

But the collection is also an indirect chronicle of the family itself. Each Father Christmas letter gives a glimpse of the children at the other end: the teddy bear collection, the railroad enthusiasm, the year one child tried sending Father Christmas a telegram in the off-season.  And as they grow, it’s clear that the gifts of love and wonder given by the letters lasted far beyond the holiday.

That’s something worth recapturing now.

I know. By this time of year, most of us are pretty exhausted. And lately, when New Year’s starts to appear on the horizon, we greet it with more resignation than excitement. If Dec. 31 had a motto for the 2020s, it would probably be “Well, thank goodness THAT one’s over.”

But long after candles have been snuffed, trees have come down and lights packed away, we still have the gift of each other. And we have to give it well, whatever the time of year.

We give it to neighbors when we help each other face the challenges of the world, whether it’s a snowstorm, a pandemic, or just a chore that’s too much for one person to do alone.

We give it to friends when we celebrate their joys and ease their trials, even if all we can do is listen and understand.

And yes, we give it to our children when we help them grow with an open heart and a spirit of curiosity and wonder. That, most of all, ensures the gift will continue.

It doesn’t require handwritten letters with a North Pole postmark (though I suppose it never hurts). Even in Tolkien’s day, that was just the gift-wrapping.  It starts with awareness – noticing other people, remembering that they matter, and then treating them that way.

Sounds simple, I know. But when we remember to do it, it has the power of a child receiving Father Christmas’s personal attention: a reminder that they’re seen, they’re important and they’re cared for.

So don’t let that spirit stop at Jan. 1. Keep being the gift.

After all it’s always a good time to be living in the present.

Putting the Peaces Together

We shouldn’t have lost Bob McGrath this close to Christmas.

I know. There’s never a good time. But you know what I mean. Big Bird would understand.

If you or your kids grew up watching “Sesame Street,” you know Bob, who passed recently at the age of 90. Part of the adult cast, he was the music teacher with a gentle voice and a kindly manner. Sometimes he’d be introducing the latest “People in Your Neighborhood.” Sometimes you’d see him chatting, both out loud and in sign language, with his character’s deaf girlfriend, Linda.  Once, he famously helped explain the death of store owner Mr. Hooper – as much as anyone could, anyway – to a grief-stricken Big Bird, his own voice shaking as well at the passing of his real-life castmate.

In short, whether in good times or bad, he reflected a spirit of peace. The sort of spirit we celebrate now and really need more of.

I don’t just mean that Bob wasn’t violent. (You never got a lot of that on the Street, anyway.) I don’t even mean that he was quiet and soft-spoken. Peace means more than just “nobody’s fighting.” We’ve all been in uncomfortable situations where nobody’s arguing but nobody feels at ease, carefully keeping their guard up. Many parents know the moment when the kids are behaving with each other, but only because Mom and Dad are watching.

You have peace when you have community. Interconnection. Harmony in the most literal sense of the word: many different voices coming together to make a more beautiful chord. (As a good friend likes to point out, the old Greek word for peace comes from a verb that means “to tie” or “to weave.”)

You have peace when things are as they should be. Not because someone’s sitting on everybody else, but because everyone wants to help make them right. A world where … well, where you truly see the people in your neighborhood.

It’s not always easy. It certainly requires more than just a spirit of “If you don’t make trouble, you won’t get any.” Peace doesn’t do well in isolation. It needs someone to reach out to: to celebrate or console, to make right or support. It can soothe or call for justice, but it doesn’t just walk back into the house and close the door.

In other words, it’s a gift. Maybe one of the most important ones we can give each other, at this time or any other.

Bob’s character spoke to people where they were, whether that required ASL or the ability to connect with a 6-year-old. From what I can tell, the real Bob did exactly the same. People like that matter, especially in a day where so many chasms keep erupting.

And when they leave, that spirit doesn’t have to leave with them. It’s up to us to keep it going and help it spread.

Even when it hurts to remember that missing neighbor.

It’s fitting to end this in his own words, from the Mr. Hooper episode:

“You’re right, Big Bird. It’s … it’s …  it’ll never be the same around here without him. But you know something? We can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him, and to know him, and to love him a lot when he was here.”

May that be said of all of us.

Peace, everyone.

Throwing DARTs

Call the shot: asteroid, corner pocket.

That’s what kept running through my mind after we all heard the latest news from NASA. In an effort to sharpen Earth’s defenses against runaway rocks, the space agency recently slammed a spaceship into a test asteroid. The goal: to see if the rock could be bumped off course, a planetary billiards shot worthy of Minnesota Fats.

“This one’s for the dinosaurs,” one Tweet declared, one of many social media posts declaring “Revenge!” for T-Rex and its cousins.

No, it’s not exactly Hollywood. As NPR reminded everyone, our movie-makers like to solve the problem of planet-killer asteroids with nuclear weapons. (Right, Mr. Willis?) As usual, reality is a little more subtle. Just like fighting fire with fire, you fight motion with motion.

Nudges. Not nukes.

Not a bad course of action for life in general, when you think about it. We’ve all seen situations where the quiet conversation undoes the need for the shouting match, the soft answer that turns away wrath. On a larger scale, politics happens because we believe that words are better than wars … and breaks down when we forget that fact.

But there’s a second part to this, too. NASA hasn’t forgotten it. We shouldn’t either.

Without awareness, the best nudge in the world is doomed to fail.

We’re great at watching the depths of interstellar space. But our own backyard has some blind spots. Every so often, we’ll see a story about a near-miss asteroid that surprised us from out of the sun, like the Red Baron ambushing Snoopy. One rock the size of a football field missed us in 2019 by about 43,000 miles – about one-fifth the distance to the moon – and wasn’t seen until after the fact. A smaller one the next year passed us by 1,800 miles; we noticed six hours later.

Moments like that are why NASA plans to launch a new Space Surveyor telescope in a few years to help keep an eye on lower earth orbit. They’re also a good reminder for the two simple words that we’re so bad at: pay attention.

On the sidewalk, it can mean a trip or a collision because someone’s eyes were on their phone instead of their surroundings.

On the highway, a moment’s lapse of attention can have horrifying consequences.

On a larger scale, early detection of a crisis – from hurricanes to viruses – can save lives. Ignoring the warnings or failing to see them can be disastrous.

We can all chime in with our personal examples, of course. Maybe it’s something spotted during a bit of home maintenance that saved a repair later. Or a symptom noticed and checked out before it became something worse. Or even just learning about a friend’s troubles in time to lend a hand and a heart.

You can’t help what you don’t know.

Granted, our attention can’t be everywhere. A lot of alarms go off around the world in the course of a day (just ask TV news). Trying to keep every last one in mind is a recipe for anxiety and despair. There needs to be judgment as well as awareness.

But we can’t walk blind. Not to our surroundings. Not to our neighbors. Certainly not to our world.

It’s a balancing act. But a vital one. And working together, with open eyes and a light touch, we can help each other make it.

No, it’s not easy. But it’s worth the shot.

And if we aim it right, we just might hit the pocket.

Stepping Out

For a moment, the steps grow faster, the leash tighter.

“Holmes, wait.” We stop until the lead slackens. “Good boy. Ok, let’s come.”

A fenced-in dog challenges us, creating a short pause. A neighbor across the street draws some barks. It’s not a perfect run yet , especially when rabbits – the ultimate temptation – cross our path. But it’s already so much easier than it was.

Step by step, Holmes is learning.

If you’re only just joining us, Holmes is the latest addition to Chez Rochat, a one-year-old mixed breed with a boatload of smarts and Way Too Much Energy™. As a result, we’ve been throwing more Frisbees than a California beach, filling up food puzzles with the efficiency of a North Pole assembly line, and even trying to teach him how to calm down when needed, something my wife Heather calls “doggy Zen.”

And of course, there are walks. Followed by walks. And more walks.

Of the three dogs we’ve owned, Holmes is already the walking champ for sheer frequency. But he’s also new, stepping out with a mixture of curiosity, enthusiasm and anxiety about what he’ll  find … and still learning which situations merit concern.  (“Hey! Hey! That man getting into his car is VERY SUSPICIOUS! I mean, who does that?”)

I follow and guide with treats and patience and a slightly sore shoulder. Which means that as Holmes learns the world and how to behave in it, I’m learning Holmes at the same time.

Isn’t that always the way of it?

Everyone has a story and a struggle. Part of being human – or at least, a better kind of human – is to be aware of those stories and struggles even as we’re dealing with our own. It’s why almost every faith and philosophy on the planet has some variation of love your neighbor, help the stranger, reach out and touch someone … wait, that last one might have been AT&T.

The point remains: we’re here to help. But as some have pointed out, that’s not a one-sided proposition where help simply descends on someone like Batman from a skylight. When we teach, we learn. When we see into someone’s heart, our own is opened a little wider. Just like a handshake, you can’t touch without being touched in return.

That can be a little frightening. Not just in the responsibility it gives us for others, but in the possibility – no, certainty – that what we do will change ourselves in ways we don’t expect. It’s a reminder that we’re not really in control, a lesson that few of us enjoy learning. (If you’ve ever stepped on a phantom brake while in the passenger seat of a car, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

But it’s also an exciting lesson, too. It means that no single one of us has to have all the answers or plug all the holes. It means there’s room for surprise and discovery. Most of all, it means that all of us need all of us, and that together, we can shape something pretty amazing.

Even in something as small as a morning or evening walk.

Reach out. Walk together. Look around. You might just find yourself on a path you never knew existed.

One warning, though. If that path has rabbits, you’d better keep a firm grip on the leash.

Right, Holmes?