It snowed today.
According to the weather, it may snow again tomorrow.
Spring in the Midwest can be like this, with flip flops and tank tops one day and winter gear the next, pulled from a closet where you all too optimistically stashed them away just a week earlier.
Last night, I spent the last hour and a half before sunset in a winter jacket preparing the barn, blanketing a few vulnerable animals, and covering plants that had the audacity to emerge before the final frost of the season.
I was back and forth from the house to the barn so much that my dog, Rose, laid down begrudgedly in the garden instead of keeping pace as I did my chores. She looked at me seemingly frustrated, perhaps wondering why I couldn’t just pick a spot already.
“I just have to make it to the end of the week…” I thought, dragging a old watering trough behind me from the back barn to the garden, a soon to be cover for my already blooming daffodils.
It’s been about a year since Covid changed things for all of us. Seasons have shifted one to the next like a playlist that brings us back to the beginning again. Masks now hang next to my keys, and I would no sooner go out without one than the other. Everything and nothing is the same.
I’ve been quiet this year, I suppose. (Shout out to the followers who are still reading this even though my last blog post was nearly four months ago.) The best of intentions to write didn’t get me very far in our pandemic world. Maybe I haven’t felt like I had much to write about. In some ways, that seems like the case; the day to day doesn’t change all that much at the moment.
Maybe a lot of what I could have written about is sad.
Maybe, and I suspect there’s some truth in this, it’s that a lot of us have developed some plague-induced level of attention deficit. It’s just been harder to focus for a while now, especially on the things that are still right in front of us.
Maybe, and I KNOW there’s truth in this, the pandemic has a lot of us pouring ourselves out and not taking much time to fill back up. A friend and fellow writer reminded me very gently several weeks back that no one can pour from an empty cup.
Probably my quiet is some combination of all of these things, and probably a whole host of other factors that haven’t occurred to me yet.
I think a lot of us are thinking about “just making it to…” the end of the week, the end of the semester, the end of the pandemic. More than usual, we’ve gotten used to living in a state of anticipation, of grinning and bearing it until something changes. We stay quiet. We hold…hopefully steady.
About two weeks ago, John and I brought home a foster dog who was not quite as advertised. She was supposed to be cat and dog friendly, and she just is not. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a good dog, but she has to be kept on a leash– when not in her kennel–at all times. She’s sweet as pie with people, but the girl is unpredictably animal aggressive. It complicated our lives a fair bit.
She’s going home with her adopter to be an only pet on Thursday, but, somehow, in the meantime, she made me acutely aware of all of my waiting.
Last night, trudging through Monday to get to Thursday, when the household would settle and the weather would go back to something closer to normal, I wondered just how much of my life has been spent this way.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with anticipation or hope, but sometimes, especially maybe when a global pandemic has all of us holding our breath until things get back to normal, we forget to live the in between.
Last week, I found myself driving over the river to meet John for dinner. I was stressed out, thinking about our difficult foster dog, fences that needed mending, bills coming due. My shoulders were noticeably tensed and my jaw had clenched.
And I thought “Soon.”
Soon it will be different. Better. Easier. I focused on some ephemeral moment in the future when I would have a little more room to breath. I may have actually been holding my breath.
To my left, the sun glinted off the river, light playing on the water, practically splashing in the waves. I let out a sigh as I noticed it.
And a new thought.
Right now. Sunset on the Illinois River. Snow on the Daffodils. This is the life we have been waiting for. Whatever it is, pandemic and all.
Sometimes, I think, we don’t miss the forest for the trees.
We miss the trees for the forest.
We miss the way the sun glints off the water at sunset because we are worried about the difficult foster situation and are focusing on the next change. We miss the favorite song that comes on the radio as we drive to meet someone we love and are lucky enough to be able to still see because we have a bill looming and a date attached. We miss the evening bird song because we are frantically trying to cover the plants before the snow comes.
We miss the life we’re living for the worries we have over it.
Today I made a point to notice how unexpectedly beautiful spring flowers are when they’re covered in snow. I took a minute to breath. To give myself a break. Even to take a nap.
The worries, of course, are still there, but the time will never come when they aren’t. The weather in the Midwest will always be unpredictable. Animal rescue, for as long as I do it, will come with it’s complications. There will always be a new bill. There will always be something to stress about.
The key, I think, is not to live a life of “it will be better when,” but to recognize the both/and nature of the life and world. Especially now. Especially when the news and our lives are always there to remind us that this world is complicated and hard. When we are tired, and life has us quiet.
Frederick Buechner once wrote “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
Beautiful and terrible. Exciting and mundane. Here, my beloveds, is the world: the terrible, beautiful, anxiety-inducing world that we live in.
I hope we all remember to notice it. To notice the moments of our actual life, as it actually is.
April snow and all.