In a place rarely spoken, peace and passion meld.
There passion roars not with eyes only for itself and its fierce drive toward fulfilling a goal.
There peace sits not in a comfortable chair watching from the side while the real action of life happens.
In this place, feet stand firm and arms reach.
Hearts grow roots and eyes look up.
In my past, passion was usually pursuit full-force, jets blazing in fiery orange. This, often followed by great frustration and feelings of failure when I nearly burnt myself out, small embers glowing weakly.
Peace was often a gift like mist, felt in rare moments when I could truly be still, release and receive the presence of God. Too often for me peace sat off in the distance from where I lived, with all my processing, striving and feeling.
Lately, I am learning that passion and peace are not so far away from one another as I’d feared. I learn as I watch my six-year-old J and her places quiet, deep.
J often holds a straight expression (unlike her mama, the ever-frequent smiler), and she rarely squeals, yells or draws much attention to herself. She is not joyless, by any means, but overall what operates within J is her own brand of calm.
Lately, I’m seeing that under the calm, J possesses what I can best describe as a knowing — a kind of commitment without fanfare or large pronouncement.
Our second-born girl adores animals of every kind. Each time she visits the school library, she leaves with one or more animal books — an adventure of Biscuit (the puppy), an owner’s manual for domestic cats or a book about panda bears.
Every sharing day from kindergarten through the middle of first grade, J has brought from home either a stuffed “friend” or a book about animals.
This week, she proudly carried to school a hardbound collection of stories by James Herriot, the author of All Creatures Great and Small, who worked for many years as a veterinarian in the English countryside.
J pours over every page of that book and the vet’s tender experiences caring for cows, horses, dogs and cats.
From the time she could talk, J made exuberant animal noises and eagerly embarked on “kitty and doggy hunts” with me on the way to and from big sister’s school.
“O–oh,” she says, tilting her head when she sees a baby animal now. “O–oh,” she says when a cat darts across her path.
Many days after school, J dons her vet “scrubs” and lines up stuffed animals and animal figures dressed in appropriate clothing, taking their temperatures and addressing their maladies calmly, one by one.
Recently, we watched dear Henry, a gentle, blind, yellow lab, while our family traveled. During the nine days he shared our home, J happily took Henry outside, brought him toys, fed and brushed him, generally adored him.
When Henry had a series of seizures several days into his visit, I took the girls upstairs while Michael stayed with Henry.
J remained steady. She spoke calmly and clearly to me about what was happening and her belief that Henry would be just fine.
I pointed out to J that, like a veterinarian, she did not panic in a frightening situation. Neither did she shy away from seeing Henry right after his seizures.
I told her I thought she had a great temperament for veterinary work.
J, who rarely looks ahead too much to anything besides her birthday and Christmas, said, “Yeah, I’m not sure if I should study large animals first, like a country vet, or smaller animals, like a city vet.”
She continued, “They’re really different, you know, but I think it’s probably good to know both.”
This summer, J will attend camp with two friends, learning how to work on a farm, ride a horse and care for a variety of animals. We couldn’t be more thrilled.
Our girl knows she’s made to love and tend to ones with fur and feathers. It’s clear.
It is passion of a different sort. No whirring. No racing. No striving. No orange flames.
Instead, her passion is a mountain lake of calm, deep.
Sometimes we need the fire brand of passion. It can inspire and push us forward.
But sometimes we need to know the peace passion — the kind infused with a knowing, quiet trust.
This kind of passion, I am still learning.
J is my teacher.