The Gift of Adversity

It's a little after 6:00am and the black of night is just beginning to give way to the first hint of the coming new day.  The sky is barely becoming distinguishable from the trees around this little cabin.  A warm fire is crackling in the wood-stove and its flames have had me in a trance for several minutes.  Laurie is asleep.  The dogs are asleep.  I am alone with my thoughts.  

The thermometer says that it's 32 degrees outside.  It's the second freeze of the winter.  This will be my eighth winter spent at Gray Stone Ranch.  I am thinking about my first winter here.
When I decided to try to make a home here I was divorced, broke and homeless (or at least houseless).  Some bad decisions and a shortage brains had routed me into that situation much quicker than I could ever have imagined, but never the less, there I was.  So I did what every homeless guy who owns a ranch does.  I pitched a pup-tent and dug in to try to weather the storm.  Of course, I'm being facetious.  Most people would have the good sense to sell the ranch in order to NOT be homeless.  (Did I mention that brain shortage problem?)
The divorce (actually, it was the marriage) had left me with no money and no credit.  Fortunately I was gainfully employed and had a reliable set of wheels.  I also had a tent and a three-legged dog.  But I imagine that no one at that time would have cared to trade places with me then. 
The winter of 2001 was particularly wet.  I don't know if this is statistically correct, but just the same I can attest that it was a wet winter.  It is amazing how important the weather becomes to you once you start residing in a pup-tent.  Many nights I slept fitfully between downpours and other nights when the storms were more spectacular, I didn't sleep at all.  I would lay awake tense in anticipation the next crack of lightening, petting my dog more for my own assurance than his.  I remember the cross made by the union of the tent poles above me being burned into my retinas after lightening had lit up the night sky so bright.  The experience was religious. (in a hell-fire and brim-stone fashion)
Sounds like not a whole lot of fun, Right?  Well it wasn't but then again it was magical too.  Living almost completely unseparated from nature for many months awakened an appreciation for that world and that simplicity.  The experience reshaped my value system.  The experience was dualistic in that it was very humbling yet it also showed me that I (all of us) are capable of so much more than we suspect.  It gave me a new respect for all things in nature the great and the small.  They live largely without protection except for their God given gifts and instincts in the most adverse conditions.  Before, experiencing this adversity myself, I had rarely given a thought to their world.
Ever since this adversity, divorce, financial failure, homelessness and the adversity which resulted in a hundred different hardships.  The hardships each came with lessons.  The lessons culminated into an education which produced a new philosophy living my life.  'Live simply and appreciate the things you have.'   Is my mantra.  I tell myself this everyday.  To say "Live simply and appreciate what you have." is not the same thing as "Be complacent and never try to improve your situation."  Laurie and I have worked hard to improve our lifestyle, but we have done so with a commitment to keeping it simple.
Now as the fire is burning down and the rich smell of the burning oak lingers in the morning air,  those cold wet frightful nights eight years ago seem a lifetime away.  But I am thankful for those nights .  For it was from them that this dream I now live was borne.