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By Michael Angier

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Adventures in the Leaves

The other day, my wife Dawn and I did what many fall tourists in New England do. We took a leisurely drive around Vermont and watched the chlorophyll drain out of the leaves. The reds, yellows and oranges in early October are truly something to behold, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely: talking, laughing and oohing and aahing our way around a good section of what we call the "Northeast Kingdom."

If you flattened out all the hills and mountains, Vermont would be a fairly good-sized state. But since it's hardly flat, it ranks down with the smallest of the fifty. Nonetheless, there are myriad back roads—roads that are easy to find, but not always so easy to find your way out of. Now I have a fairly keen sense of direction, and I almost always knew—at least roughly—where we were. Regardless, there were a number of times that our exact location was unknown until we emerged onto a road or scene that was more familiar. It was fun.

It occurred to me that in life, even though it's important to a plan as to where we're going and equally important to have a sense of where we are, if we know exactly where we're going, and precisely what's going to happen, there's no drama—no adventure.

In our trek around the highways and bi-ways of northern Vermont, we were willing to be a little lost because it added to the wonder of the experience. The MISSION was clear, but the plan was flexible. In other words, "set your goals in concrete and your plans in sand."

I fear that too many people—myself included—have our lives so well scheduled and so tightly controlled, that we forsake some of the spontaneous things that could add more spice, adventure and enjoyment. As I look back over my life, many of the things I labeled catastrophes turned out to be the proverbial blessing in disguise. Many of the things I initially looked upon as detours and delays added immeasurable quality to the journey.

I'm reminded of the story of the man who was discouraged and prayed that life would be easier and that he could win in every endeavor. One day, he was visited by an angel and his prayers were answered. Everything he touched turned to gold. No matter what he tried, it worked. Everything he wanted, he received—with no struggle and no fear of the end result. But, alas, he found himself miserable. Life was too predictable—like watching a taped football game to which you already know the outcome, it lacks excitement.

In a short while, the man prayed again—this time to be relieved of his wish. A second time he was visited by the angel, and the man said he would rather go to hell than continue with this "curse." The angel replied, "My son, hell is where you've been since we were last together."

We need to welcome the challenges and unknowns that come our way. They're what make us stronger and build our character. They are what provide the drama—the comedies and the tragedies—of our lives.


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"When you get to the end of all the light you know and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly."
—Edward Teller, American physicist
and author




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Last Updated 10/13/2004