It’s snowing outside, big puffy flakes of cotton floating down from the trees across the street. It won’t pile up in drifts and you can’t make snowballs out of it, but it will drift up against the curbs until the wind disperses the next generation of Cottonwood trees out to wherever they will be. Clearly, the vast majority will never germinate, or we would be covered up in Cottonwoods. It’s one of those exuberantly generous loading of the system practiced by many kinds of organisms—like the 2-5 thousand salmon eggs laid by each female salmon that successfully spawns, of which only two or three will return to spawn again. It sounds wasteful, but nothing is wasted by Mother Nature. What does not germinate will become compost for another plant. What does not spawn will become food for another animal. The energy recycles, not as we might expect, but generously and sufficiently.

I have been told (though I cannot find the source) that C. S. Lewis said that God always takes pilgrims by the shortest path. If those were not his words, the idea is certainly reflected in his writings. Just like the Cottonwood and the salmon’s over-abundance is not wasteful, nothing in our lives is wasted, either. Everything contains within it the jewels of wisdom and compassion, if we will but mine them. The shovel for digging is reflection and contemplation. The ego quickly picks up the shovel, but always digs in the wrong place—in another’s heart. The spirit recognizes that there is no earth without that is not also within, and only the mine within is exuberantly generous.

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