“Those days, like today, I walk with a purpose but no destination…Today it is enough to make a shadow.”
— Gretel Ehrlich
I first discovered the author and poet Gretel Ehrlich in 2012.
After finishing her poignant book, The Future of Ice: A Journey into Cold, I moved on to Islands, the Universe, Home, which contained a passage I remember to this day:
Some days I think this one place isn’t enough. That’s when nothing is enough, when I want to live multiple lives and have the know-how and guts to love without limits. Those days, like today, I walk with a purpose but no destination. Only then do I see, at least momentarily, that most everything is here. To my left a towering cottonwood is lunatic with bird song. Under it, I’m a listening post while its great, gray trunk—like a baton—heaves its green symphony into the air.
I walk and walk, from the falls over Grouse Hill, to the dry wash. Today it is enough to make a shadow.
For some reason, that last sentence especially struck me. I’ll confess to you that being present in the here and now, and mining each moment for the simple riches it contains, doesn’t always come easy to me. And so the way that Gretel put it—Today it is enough to make a shadow—presented me with a new way of expressing our gratitude at the end of a day: No matter the challenges it might’ve held, or the many directions our minds might’ve gone in, what about each day was enough?
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Ever since reading that passage, I’ve ended many a journal entry with the words, “Today it is enough to…”
In 2014, when I was living in a yurt on Canada’s Salt Spring Island, I once set out on an afternoon walk and came across a man playing a long silver whistle as he walked towards me from the other direction. When we passed each other, he pulled the whistle away from his mouth and smiled.
“What would you call that?” I asked him. “A recorder?”
“I think it’s called a penny whistle, or maybe a tin whistle.”
“Well, it sounds lovely,” I said. “Keep it up.”
As he kept walking, filling the air with his simple melody, I silently thanked Gretel Ehrlich for giving me a way to frame what that moment had meant to me:
Today it is enough to hear a penny whistle sing as I walk.
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I thought of Gretel’s line again just a few months ago, when my surprise voyage on the Skydancer delivered me to the Norwegian city of Tromsø. I knew little about Tromsø when we arrived, and I shared this with my friend Nick.
“Let’s see,” Nick said, thinking for a moment. “It’s the fifth largest city in Norway—about 75,000 people. It’s called the Paris of the North, because it has so many cafés and restaurants, and it’s also called the Gateway to the Arctic. It doesn’t sound like a big city, but it will feel like one after Lofoten.”
I had the whole day to see Tromsø, before catching a ferry back to the Lofoten Islands that night. In between wandering its pretty streets and eating a picnic lunch at the historic site of Skansen, my favorite hours were spent sketching a wooden church in the center of the city—or what I would later learn is the Tromsø Cathedral, no less, and the only Norwegian cathedral made of wood.
As I sat and sketched from my perch on the cold sidewalk, I loved looking up at the cathedral’s turquoise steeple; keeping time by the clocks on its churchtower; and—most of all—thinking once again of my favorite equation for enoughness, as I even wrote on the sketch itself that afternoon:
Today, it is enough to be in a new city above the Arctic Circle.
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