Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Eagle Butte
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Keeping time under pressure


Like the fancy dancer gliding across the dance floor, landing on the beats of the drum and floating on the melody of the singers, we get things done.

Pressure is the drum beat pushing us along, enticing us to keep moving toward whatever goal or end we have set out to achieve.

Sometimes the pressure gets a bit too much, but the feeling of relief is exquisite when the song is over and the dance done. We may be exhausted, but once the silence has taken over, we can rest.

The most intense pressure is resting on my shoulders as I write this column this week. Deadlines loom, and I must decide which ones cannot be delayed, and which ones have no choice but to wait.

I am forever grateful for technology as we know it today. It affords us with the ability to work across a thousand miles, which would not have been as easy 20 or 30 years ago, although still doable with faxes and express mail.

My students read excerpts each year from Henry David Thoreau’s  Walden.

In one part of his collection of essays, he talks about how terribly busy we all get. Even in 1850, people seemed consumed with all the things they had to do. Thoreau criticizes these people, suggesting that they are busy doing meaningless things, and often they are so busy they cannot stop to help a person out, but they are not too busy to stop and watch the barn burn — even if all they do is watch.

Sometimes when I get this busy, and the pressure to get ‘re done mounts, I think of Thoreau and wonder if I too am a victim of the busy bug — or is my busy more meaningful?

Do I get caught up in the news everyday — the news that is remote and far away and has no impact on me? Am I gawking at the accident I will not help to clean up, but too busy to stop and say hello to an acquaintance or friend?

Thoreau makes me think a lot about what I do and why, but I think he was a bit harsh on his fellow man — sitting on the edge of life, watching it flow by, criticizing all of those busy people whose lives seemed meaningless and shallow to him.

When I shift perspective and think of those whom he criticized, I think of myself, because I am that busy person, always consumed by a million things to do, but I know I am not shallow and my work is not meaningless, even if some people looking in from the outside may think differently.

To me, to be up and doing, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his poem “Psalm of Life” is good, and if what we are doing is done with purpose, is  meaningful and keeps cadence with the beat of our own drummer — then we are on the best path — the red road, if you will.

As I come to the end of this year’s dance with students, I remind myself that while I still have many things to do, I will need to complete one at a time in the same way the dancer’s foot hits the ground with each beat until the brief and silent respite that will fortunately and inevitably lead to the the next dance.

Junior Jordan Carter dances at the C-EB powwow held on Saturday May 18. Photo by Jody Rust