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Take time to enjoy simplest pleasures

Monday, July 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:53 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Right up until the moment you heard the sound of horse hooves pounding against the pavement, you might have suspected from the current of excitement racing through the crowd that someone in the midst had won the lottery. Children were yelling and screaming, adults were clapping their hands and leaning forward to stretch their necks. Suddenly, the horses came into view, except they were not just horses; they were huge horses. They were the Budweiser Clydesdales and the crowd went wild. The eight gentle giants were followed by the red brewery wagon, weighing four tons with its smallest star, a Dalmatian mascot, riding on top. For a few moments, the part of the world where I was standing was a glad and joyous place where young and old alike shared a unique privilege.

I thought a lot about the experience of that evening and it didn’t take long for me to decide that we need a lot more moments like that. So often in this troubled world of ours we forget the little, simple pleasures that make for a meaningful life. I must have witnessed a thousand smiles in that brief expanse of time, more smiles than I see most of the time in a 12-hour day.

For all the pleasure they provide, the care and keeping by the Anheuser-Busch Company of the Clydesdales is no small feat. There are five traveling Clydesdale teams and they travel more than 100,000 miles a year, appearing in more than 500 events. The horses travel in three custom-built, specially equipped vans. The Clydesdales ride in the first two vans and the third van carries the brewery wagon, feed and gear. The horses are accompanied by a small army of attendants and five hours are required to prepare the horses for an appearance.

There were a lot of other things I might have been doing that evening. But, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I needed to pause in my routine and engage in some spiritual renewal. It seems that almost everywhere you turn these days, you get hit with a blast of violence. I have never been one that’s good at processing mayhem. I know people that are hardly affected by war, murder and bloodshed. They seem able to disassociate themselves from these events as if they were happening on another planet. I have no idea whether this is good or bad. The minutes I spent enjoying the Clydesdale’s performance lifted my thoughts from the pits of despair to a higher plane. I left for home feeling a sense of well-being as if the world had momentarily righted itself.

Lately, I’ve come to envy people who can lose themselves in a sports contest or another favored event. Reality forever hovers at the edge of my conscious mind. I don’t need to be reminded that at every hour of every day in some part of the world, wars are always being waged. What bothers me is that there seems to be so little being done where peace is concerned. One would think that the peace movements would be more visibly active these days. It concerns me that so many children are learning how incredibly easy it is to make war without hesitation when there is so little opposition.

Churches are everywhere and preachers are plentiful. That’s what makes it so curious that violence is as common as fast food. Americans claim that this is a Christian country, so is this Christian behavior? Some of these folks are extremely vocal on the subject of abortion, so what about people killing other people outside the womb? Could folks possibly get as upset about our homicide rate as they do about the possibility that the words “under God” could be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance? Or do we just want the name without the game?

Simple pleasures are all around us, though. On a summer day, the variety of birds nesting in the trees offers a picturesque scene. Sunrise and sunset are often breathtakingly beautiful. A gently bubbling brook, a field of lilies or a gaggle of geese swimming across a lake remind us that nature in all of its infinite wonder is the great nurturer of the human spirit.

I think we really need to laugh more or at least have more good stuff to laugh about. After my evening with the Clydesdales, I promised myself I would take better advantage of the small things around me that give me pleasure. I intend to listen to more music, read more poetry and take more time to appreciate the sights and sounds of summer.

Sometimes, when it seems that the world is going haywire, it’s good to step outside oneself and evaluate the direction you’re traveling. Maybe, the grass really is greener on the other side. I think I’ll stop and take a look.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net


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