I know spring is coming when the energy returns, the energy that has me scrubbing floors and singing at the top of my lungs, the energy that calls me to cook lamb and salmon and greens and asparagus and serve it on the best china for some of my favorite people.
I feel a rising. The sap is rising in the trees and something is rising in me too. I feel it in Quaker meeting when I sit and listen not only to the silence, but to the silence behind the silence and feel my whole heart swell from joy as I see the bird in the window and someone asks us to hold their pet dog in the light and Max lays his head in my lap and mouths these words, “Mama…I love you.”
This past year has been many things: It has been a learning experience. It has been quietly hard. It has been about being stuck, losing my way, losing my hope and losing people I love. It has been about a dismantling so subtle that I still don’t know how to talk about it.
But during Sunday dinners, when community is gathered around the table and wine is poured and the children are in a pile watching the hockey game down in the TV room and the roast potatoes are just about crisp enough to serve, all is right with the world. And I know nothing but love. This is what is has all come down to. This is all there is. And it is perfect.
Bring it on. After a long winter, I am ready.
We are back at home. All is back to normal at last, all except for the fact that my internet is down. I have to say that it is a happy problem to have. While terribly inconvenient, it has been a relief to settle back into routine without this computer calling to me. I have never been more productive.
I have a very mixed relationship with the internet and this computer. On the one hand, this blog, my network of my favorite bloggers–it has opened up a whole wide world of connection to me. That connection has been a life line. Facebook too has opened new adventures for me–bringing me back into contact with people I never thought I would ever see again. But yet, when I am without these connections I am profoundly aware of how I when I plug in to the virtual world, I am unplugged from my real world. I spend endless hours here online avoiding what is in here front of me that needs my attention.
Like all that snow that still needs to be dug out. Or the garbage that needs to be cleared. Or the endless piles of paper that find their way into my house.
Without my internet, I have been making lists and tackling them, continuing a never ending clearing of my house. Closets, drawers, countertops and desks. Once upon a time I thought all I needed was a couple of good days, a will to unclutter and some bins for goodwill, some trash bags. Now I know that there is no moment when my house will be really clear, when it will be permanently clutter free. Once upon a time that realization might have depressed me, the knowledge that I might not ever reach a promised land, but now I have settled into the practice. I declutter because its what I do. Because the letting go is the point. Because making room for emptiness is good.
Its a journey of discovery, this letting go. It is like an onion. No matter how much I clear, I find something else that needs to go. No matter how present I am to my life, I find that things (like the internet) take my attention away. Its fascinating and silly and delightful to learn this. I just notice and then let it go.
It is starting to snow again. And while there is a part of me that is delighted, I am also a tiny bit afraid. There is nothing like big snow storms to remind us how fragile life really is.
The snow storm started on Friday afternoon. We were well stocked with food and milk and wood. We had plenty of movie and board games. We hoped that we would have Monday off from school. We planned fun things to do that were in walking distance of home, planned to leave the cars at home. We dreamed of being shut in.
When we woke on Saturday at 7am the outside had been transformed into a winter wonderland. I lit a fire, read, waited for Max to wake so I could make pancakes. We set out to do a shoveling pass of the driveway and front walkway when the noises began, the buzzy, echoey loud sounds of transformers popping. And then, by 9am the power was gone.
As I shoveled I felt the panic just under the surface percolate. The snow had just started. We had already a foot and it seemed to be falling even faster. There was suddenly nowhere to put the snow I kept clearing from the path. Suddenly, being inside felt like being trapped by the snow that fell faster and faster. We went in only to change wet clothes by the fire and we felt the temperature in the house drop. So I breathed. And I shoveled and I leaned into the wind. And then, when half our firewood was gone by 3pm we packed a backpack and set out to find friends with power.
We found them, half a mile away. Suddenly, together in the company of several families in front of a fire, the panic lifted. The growing darkness felt festive not frightening once more. For three days we huddled together, in shifting combinations, with several families in our tribe. We laughed and played games. We socialized and were still. We walked and carried firewood and cooked and read and sat in a line working on our laptops on the one remaining wireless connection. And as the lights came back on, we all drifted back home.
And now, as the snow starts to fall again, I feel it. That sense of dread that could mean that it might all fall apart again. I feel the fear that arises from the possibility that we could be stuck, trapped, walled in with snow. And I can’t imagine how it felt in the ancient days when winter snow and ice meant darkness, quiet, stillness for days, weeks, even months on end.
The gift of storms like these is the discovery of the meaning of yin. Quiet and internal and solitary…and sometimes paralyzingly fearful. Our society has no space for such a still way of being. We keep the lights burning, we connect in thousands of different ways. We watch the storms on radar as they pass above us. But how can we gain courage without moments such as these?
The gift of the storm is a chance, even in this modern go-go society to touch the deep unknowing that comes when you are alone, in the snow wondering where you should go. The gift of that deep unknowing is the chance to touch the trust that arises when we allow ourselves to be so still. The kind of trust that allows you to set off, on foot, through 20 inches knowing you will find home again.
Build a fire.
Shovel early and often. Create the clearings even if you need to do it over and over again.
Go outside. Marvel at how the world can change so quickly.
Trust that when the power goes out you will find a warm place to shelter.
Pack a back pack with the essentials.
Surround yourself with the people you love.
Build a snow fort. Have a snow ball fight. Catch the last of the falling snow flakes on your tongue.
Shake the snow off the cyprus.
Eat chili. Cook chicken over a fire. Make hot chocolate.
Walk back and forth.
Play board games.
Say “yes please” when you are offered a warm bed.
Snuggle with the neighbor’s dog.
Call often to check in.
Take turns cooking.
Sit together and work quietly.
Trust. Even as the snow starts to fall again. Trust.