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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Complacency and minnows

If we labor under the illusion that we have limitless years ahead, complacency can drive us to put off the most important of experiences. And complacency is something in which I have a master’s degree.

I think about complacency and about the need to get things done “before I go” during my walks in the desert sunrise. Every day is a sea of possibilities and, for me, those possibilities dart in and out of my mind like schools of minnows caught in the currents. Knowing my shelf life is limited, I feel deep pressure to focus on just one of these limitless possibilities.

And, for God’s sake, literally, just finish one thing.

It is a family trait to be incapable of focusing on one thing, though. And set free to explore everything with ample time and few responsibilities, I seem to flounder most days with the decision of which direction to head.


There are novels that need to be finished, and a song that needs a melody, and a menu needs to be planned in case the migrant caravan comes through, and weeds that need to be pulled, and…and…and…and…

The to-list is endless.

In the process of trying to mentally narrow my choices as I walk, a white cotton tail of a bunny flashes in the bushes of the wash, and I stop to have a conversation. A coyote cries in the distance, and I change direction hoping to have a personal encounter. A family of javelina scurry below me through the thick brush of another wash, and I am transfixed by their repulsive beauty.


And so, once again, the list of tasks will remain unfinished as if I had all the time in the world.

Because the world awaits, and I want to be a witness.


I already know that here in this desert I have grown incapable of closing my palms to the promise offered in each sunrise. Now set free to listen to the whispers of my own heart, I am starting to wonder - what if what I have labeled as complacency is, in reality, nothing more than discarding a “to do” list and embracing a “to be” list?

Because as I write these words, the sky is still dark, and it makes my pulse quicken to ponder the awakening sun.

Somewhere, an owl is settling in for the long day ahead in the shelter of a saguaro. Somewhere, javelina are still sleeping under the cover of brush, and the coyote’s cry becomes silent. And over in the corner, my hiking boots await the day’s walk, filling me with restlessness to see what the birth of this day holds..


These morning hours insist on contemplation. I know, I am closer to the end of my life than the beginning, and yet, the knowledge of my impending expiration date does not seem to affect my behavior. The novels are still unfinished, lying dormant in a computer file. The weeds have not been pulled.


But I did not miss the barn owl screeching and hiding almost invisible in the branches above my head yesterday morning. And when the unexpected rain drops fell in the canyon, large and hard, I did not miss how they sounded on the thirsty canyon floor, and I felt alive as I traveled, soaked shirt and skin, to the safety of my car..

So, it is enough, I think, to encounter this day with open palms. It is enough to be a witness to the swish of a dove’s wing in the Palo Verde tree, the winsome cry of the quail in the wash, the gathering of thunderheads in a desert canyon. It is enough to fully embrace all that life holds for me here.


And so I lace up my boots and stride out into the desert morning yet once again to swim with the minnows. Perhaps one will catch my attention and slow down long enough for me to capture it and take it home.


Or perhaps I am destined to be a minnow myself, surrendered to the current of a vast ocean, inconsequential and oblivious,


fully at home in this moment,


and yet hungering for a life beyond the sea.


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