Stretch & Feast

“Let’s all make the day count.”

Charles Edward “Charlie” Daniels

“For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.'”

John Greenleaf Whittier

This journey has stretched me in more ways than I can count. It’s been a torrent of experiences, a sensory smorgasbord, calisthenics for an active mind, an old soul and a body that’s not quite what it used to be.

Our friends often cheer us for “living our best life.” That’s what we strive to do, and we always have. But I’m here to tell you that it’s a stretch — it doesn’t happen without purpose, intent, commitment and effort.

It’s not easy. It’s work. The rewards are worth it.

The hardest stretch — mostly because we’re not used to it — is consciously being present, knowing what needs doing now and not later, squeezing the best from each moment. We’re all preoccupied with our tomorrows, our somedays. Human nature makes it difficult for us to, as Charlie Daniels used to say, “make the day count.”

This day. This moment.

The graphic I’ve included here isn’t some Facebook meme, and it’s not borrowed from an inspirational poster. It’s a propaganda placard from 1942, encouraging Americans to support the war effort every day, in every way they could, rather than regretting their inaction later.

First of all, that’s good advice for Patriots today. America is is under siege as never before. The danger from within is as grave now as the threat from the Axis powers was 79 years ago. And we need to be sure that we’re doing everything we can, every single day, to preserve the country we love.

More generally, it’s also wise counsel from a philosophical perspective. Every time we postpone and rearrange, stall and consider, we squander opportunity. We sow regret. We leave behind a trail of empty moments.

“It might have been.”

Our tomorrows aren’t promised to us. All we have is our now.

It’s not easy. It’s work. The rewards are worth it. What are you waiting for?

I make my own version of “chili.” (Recipe here.) It’s been almost a year since I last whipped-up a batch — our slow cooker is back at Second Chance Ranch, and the nature of our American Life these days hasn’t allowed me to do it right.

That changed yesterday.

Mid-morning we made a run to Hudson’s Supermarket, that wonderful old-school grocery on the south end of Harrison. Because it was a Wednesday, we were there on “Banana Day,” a weekly tradition for over 20 years — just 19 cents a pound, limit five pounds.

We gathered our chili fixins in leisurely fashion, if only to linger longer in the friendly, homespun atmosphere. Up the road a ways we dropped by Walmart to buy a cheap (ten bucks) 12-quart stock pot.

Back at the campsite I did my prep work outdoors. The process was at once cumbersome and comical, but it got done.

Rather than cooking on the gas range in Ernie’s galley, I broke out my old Coleman two-burner propane stove and set it up on a table outside. I browned chorizo in a cast-iron skillet, combined it with ingredients already simmering in the pot and sat back to watch and wait (which turned out to be four or five hours, just about right).

Our friends from Canada and Texas contributed fresh-baked cornbread, dips, relish trays and desserts. As the sun dipped below the treetops and a chill crept into the air, we sat at a table under the Arkansas sky and enjoyed a home-cooked feast.

Best of all we made ourselves another memory — good food, good times, good friends, good place.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath