I’m knitting a sky scarf, creating a row a day using the color of the sky. It forces me to stop and look at the color of the sky every day. (Does that count as mindfulness?) Knit a row for that day. Keep it going for 365 days.
To prepare for this January 1, 2018, I collected yarn in the colors of the sky — bright blue, light blue, white, light gray, dark gray, and a sparkly white for snow. I dug through my stash of yarn and found all the colors I needed. I didn’t have to use a huge amount of any one color for my palette, so I rolled smaller balls from each skein. As I rolled I found myself making predictions: I won’t need much gray. But lots of blue. Plenty of sparkle for all of the snow.
I realized that I was building a palette for what I hoped the year would bring. I hoped for more blue skies than gray. I hoped for more snowy days than rainy ones. I hoped I could see the project through without running out of yarn or patience.
That seems like plenty of hope for the first day of a new year.
This moment, for however long it lasts, just now: all is calm and good.
There’s a fire in the fireplace that’s sending out a delicious warmth and occasionally making a happy crackle. There’s plenty of firewood, good books, wine, and tea.
We are healthy and comfortable, all of us, whether in the city, here in our house, or in South Carolina.
We have everything we need and everything we could want.
We have good friends and neighbors.
We’re waiting to bring home a puppy, for goodness’ sake.
I know that a moment can change it all, knock it down and bring us to our knees, but that makes this moment even sweeter. There will be a day — there has to be a day — when something/everything will change.
But today, for just this moment, I’m sending it out to the universe that I am thankful and content and complete.
There’s something oddly beautiful in watching a garden in autumn. A few flowers bloom on dying plants, kind of like the last guests at a party, not quite ready to go home. Leaves twirl down from trees in their final dance. Berries pop out and stand ready for the birds to feast on.
I love this season with its quiet sadness, its early darkness, and its promise of winter. I look forward to celebrating the holidays with candlelight and hearth fires and the family together at home.
Mid September. Late morning. Warm sun. Cool air. Hot beverage. New book.
People are working and looking out windows and wishing they were free on this sunny, cool, September morning. I used to be those people, imagining sitting in a column of sun with my own time table and a new book. Now I’m here. Glorious.
There’s a breeze this afternoon that makes the leaves rustle in a way that reminds me of camp. It takes me back to the last days of summer when we would pull the trunks from under the cabins and air them out, readying them to be packed up and sent home. Those last few days had no real schedule so they were looser and you were free to spend time talking with friends you weren’t going to see for ten months or sitting in a quiet spot that made you feel content. There was often someone on the lake in a sailboat, enjoying the same breeze I felt up on the hill, and I loved to watch the boat slip across the lake. It felt like a gentle wave goodbye.
We, my camp friends and I, all agreed that we were our true selves, our best selves at camp for two months of the year. We were confident and young and our friendships were so strong. Home never felt as real or as authentic somehow. Camp was life-changing and character-building and self-affirming and I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.
If we were lucky we learned how to bring some of that feeling back with us to the rest of the year. It took me a while to be able to do that. I had to leave high school and find myself in the new worlds of college and then teaching and finally motherhood to feel some of that real me-ness away from camp. But if I’d never gone to camp, would I have known what to aim for? Known who I could be? I’m just not sure.
There are certain sounds and smells that take me back to my days at camp, like Harry Potter’s portkeys, to summers spent in that most real of unreal places – camp. When the cool air moves the leaves in the trees and my mind travels back to other summer days, I want to look toward the lake and feel the contentment that comes from knowing I am my true me, my best me, in a special place and time. The summer always ended and I knew it would never be exactly the same even if I was lucky enough to find myself back there. But I also knew it would be a part of who I am forever.
I’m pretty sure that I am the proprietor of a neighborhood convenience store. In my garden. I planted annuals in my flower beds and the next day the leaves were all neatly bitten off. I looked more closely and I saw a hole in the ground right next to a well-chewed plant. Yup. I opened a 24 hour snack shop right in some chipmunk’s front yard.
We just hooked up a turntable in our family room. The records that have been waiting in a carton for decades were brought in and I started to unpack them.
I was surprised at the wave of emotion that I felt when I saw each one. It was the best reunion I’ve ever gone to! Joni and James and Cat and JohnPaulGeorge&Ringo and Carole and even my mother’s friend, Frank were there. Simon brought Garfunkle, and crazily, Elton John and Laura Nyro were milling around with Bruce. They didn’t need name tags to remind me of who they were. I recognized them immediately and they haven’t changed a bit since we we were young together. It was amazing. We skipped the small talk. I touched the album covers and smiled. I took the huge black vinyl disks (CDS are so small!) and carefully placed them one at a time on the turntable. Like riding a bike, you don’t forget how to play a record. I knew just how to hold the album and put it on the turntable and carefully place the needle on the groove. And then together we went back to when we had just met. I was in high school/college/summer camp/newly married. They were at their prime. We visited all afternoon with a promise to get together again soon. And unlike promises at a typical school reunion, we meant it.
My bathroom mirror is an old friend. We’ve been together for a long time. It doesn’t always show me exactly what I want to see but somehow it’s kinder to me than other mirrors. In it I don’t look as old or as heavy or as spotted or as wrinkled as other mirrors seem to think I am.
Other mirrors reflect my image at random times during the day. If I catch myself in a store mirror I’m almost always caught off guard by how unlike myself I look. I happily, foolishly imagine myself to be who I was because inside that’s who I still am.
My bathroom mirror and I have an understanding. I won’t toss it out and replace it as I did the mirror in the hall bath. I’ll keep it hanging on the wall, greeting me first thing in the morning and last thing at night as long as it continues to be a kinder, gentler reflection of my aging self.
Spring arrived yesterday and today is absolutely glorious. The sky is a solid pale blue, maybe leaning more to winter than summer, but it’s blue and cloudless nonetheless. The air is sun-warmed and fresh.
When I visited my garden I found that much of it was still covered in spotty patches of our last snow in spite of the warming temperatures. The ground was muddy and I imagined that the dormant plants were drinking up the melting snow and were slowly, gently, waking up to the new season.
I turned the corner and found that the forsythia had tried opening its yellow buds during a span of too-warm days only to have them frozen in place when the temperature dropped. That’s one trumpet blast of spring that will be missed.
For now, I’m happy just to look, but I know that all too soon my hands will want to dig and weed and plant. There’s still a bit of time for planning and dreaming. And melting.
Remember when I was wishing for chilly weather so that I could use my fireplace? Well, the weather did get cold and then warm and then cold again. Yesterday I went out and about with no coat on. It felt gloriously spring-y. Today it snowed most of the day and it was gloriously winter-y. I’m trying to embrace whatever the day brings.
Tonight I decided to light a fire in my fireplace in honor of what might be this winter’s last snow. I selected a few logs that looked like they were just aching to burn. I used crumpled newspaper and special sticks that are all natural and meant to help start fires. These things are all what you might call flammable. If I set these things outside in a pile and Smokey The Bear walked by, he would warn me to be careful because I might start a forest fire.
I light the newspaper, close the screen and settle back in my chair, waiting for the crackling fire to start. I have my book and my cup of tea next to me. I am ready. The special sticks catch fire quickly but the logs, they do nothing. I work hard to get the pile of things that are considered fire hazards to maintain a flame for longer than 3 minutes. I start the whole procedure over again and still nothing. It’s incredibly frustrating, thinking that houses burn down, entire forests become blackened stumps when no one wants them to, but this pile of dry wood won’t ignite.
After a deep sigh I light a candle, pick up my book, and turn my sights toward spring.
“It is better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.” Eleanor Roosevelt