Intrepid. My wife re-introduced me to this word last night in a burst of giggles that rocked our bed as I settled more deeply under the down comforter. Her mirth occasioned by the secret knowledge of a colleague’s ignorance of the word’s meaning, she tumbled into a laughing fit at the thought of one’s unfamiliarity with this wonderful word.
Intrepid. To say it conjures pilots, explorers, adventurers, trailblazers. Its synonyms – fearless, courageous – pop readily to mind. The three syllables pack a punch, the force of tongue to back of teeth to produce the bold “tr-” a pseudo onomatopoeia. Defiance of convention. Bucking trends. Giving the lie to limiting norms or stifling stereotypes. Transcending perceived limitations. Acting boldly. So many ways to capture the word’s meaning, its arms-crossed, upwardly-thrust-chin quality.
Having spent the better part of the year among farmers and ranchers, intrepid also speaks to me of those who live off the land and waters. The seasoned organic vegetable farmer who confronts the thousandth day of a searing drought. The enthusiastic Greenhorn birthing his first pair of kids. The young dairy woman sleeping beside her sick Jersey cow.
Equally, it evokes the creatures who shelter under Mother Nature’s expansive roof: great egrets and blue herons, buffleheads and mallards, Canada geese and plovers, chickadees and robins. Redwoods, cedars, aspens, scrub oaks, eucalyptus, sycamore. Cattails, water weed, marsh and Pampas grasses, and also wild radish, clover, and even pesky Bermuda grass.
I watched yesterday as a pair of pale yellow zebra-striped butterflies spiraled sunward then plunged tens of feet toward the packed dry earth in a dramatic mating dance, seemingly oblivious to barbed wire topped chain link fences, fast-flying crows, oblivious joggers. They danced their twirly, exuberant choreography intrepidly; cells in motion, energy completely in flow.
What would it mean to truly live an intrepid life, courage an inseparable companion, open-heartedness and faith coursing in your veins? What soaring choreography might be possible carried by wings of this kind of love?
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees
- like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
: Mary Oliver