My brain was making a kind of a whirring noise as I thought about us just driving up to someone’s house and asking them about their property. I rolled down the window, splattered with dried spots of snow melt and squeaking as it descended, and the crisp air hit my face in a cold rush. “Don’t you think they’ll be a bit nervous if two strangers just pull in and start asking if they want to sell their tractor?”
I looked over at him, cowboy hat pulled low his forehead, because his voice sounded odd, like he was framing his words too carefully: “Well,” he drew out the word, “I guess if they come out, guns loaded, we’ll just go on to supper.” His lips pressed together hard, and the smell of the peppermint his was sucking on drifted over, but I saw a twitch in the left corner of his mouth.
The tires crunched on the gravel drive, the gear shift clunking into first as the chug of the diesel engine cut off. The slam of the pick-up doors led to silence and I could hear the breeze rustling the pine branches against the wood of the house. My eye was drawn to that shiny prairie gold metal, the candy apple red of the wheels muted by the bright body. Reaching out, my fingers slipped over the smooth cold surface. “Hello Beautiful,” I said to her.
“It really is a Tiny Town,” I said. I stared through the spotty glass at each little house and squinted to see if there might be any tiny people. Piles of snow, dirty from the splash back, lay against the closed chain link which seemed all the grayer for the snow on the ground. I pushed my face up against the cold glass of the window, the hot air of the defrost blowing strands of my brown hair along my ear and making the fog of my breath disappear off the glass.
Ponderosa pines, blue-green and brown, lined the rutted two-lane road that wound up and around the lonely mountain cabins scattered here and there in little meadow openings. They were surrounded by grasses sticking up like straw through the crusted white snow. One two-story cabin, with a sloping drive that ended at the lower level garage door, stood in an opening among the Ponderosa. The fall sky was powder blue and the sun sparkled off a golden orange old tractor parked outside the four-panel white garage door. Two windows, like dark eyes, looked out just above the tractor.
Up long before the sun getting ready for the day, she takes care of her husband’s and children’s hot breakfast and lunches for work and school. Soon the school bus’s dust trail would drift down their road, and she’d reach out to touch the weather-roughened skin of her husband’s cheek.
Stealing this one short moment each morning, prayers rise up from deep inside and silently escape with her breath as the sun crests the tree tops. Bracing for whatever this day plans to put in her path; knowing it will move them farther to ruin, to losing this land she’s loved every day of her life, still words of thanksgiving climb. She clamps her thin lips against those words, feeling the tight bun pull against the flexed muscles in her neck and chin.
Brittle and stiff as the grasses, so long denied moisture, she knows one of these days, it will break her. But, for now, she cannot help noticing the brightening sky sliding into her vision and the shafts of sunlight playing across the waves of the now golden grasses and easing the dark of the surrounding forest.
The moon shone on the dirt road, illuminating the larger rocks and holes normally hidden in the dark. Running with the moon when it is fairly high as it makes its journey west to set, gives me company in the solitude of my run. My own shadow comes along, usually too lazy to head out the garage door with me.
The various weeds, stubble, and rabbits turn up as well to rise up to the light overhead. It isn’t the bright of warm sun in a blue sky, but rather more mellow and pale like those glow sticks you snap in half to light up.
Without snow to reflect its glory, moon light brings out lesser things in fields and pastures. It pauses to make the gravestones taller, reminding me to think of those long buried and gone, but who once lived and walked here too.
Sometimes my eyes wander while my brain is busy making lists for the day ahead or trying not to forget something just thought of—all of that jostles around until suddenly, I come back to gaze out of those blue eyes and wonder where I am. Did I already pass the cemetery? Did I cross road 22? Have I turned back toward home?
The light of the moon taps my shoulder, pointing to the glow of that half-mile post. Oh, that’s where I am. Centered again, my brain heads off again and that rabbit romps along the road beside me like a little moon-post guiding me back.
I’ve been reading a lot of poetry lately and listening to novels when I walk or drive. The combination of reading, along with my classes has been good for my writing. One of my classes this quarter is all about using writing to heal in different ways. I’m in the midst of a research project right now about using writing to get to action in various parts of our lives.
All of this is running alongside my study for Lent and the daily devotion and scripture reading which always ends up leading me to poetry. Mary Oliver is one of my go-to poets, and her poem, “The Summer Day” really gets you to thinking about how you are using your life. Today, I wrote about a virtue I want to work on and I wrote about “…what [it is I] plan to do with [my] one wild and precious life” (Oliver).
We waste so much time waiting for the right time to do this or do that, to go here or go there, to meet this person or that person, to try this or try that, to be this or be that, to do
this or do that, to experience this or experience that. Why? Are we that afraid to live our lives? To live the best life we can imagine? There really isn’t time for all of this waiting.
We have one “wild and precious” life to live. We should get after it, now, just do that next small thing to keep heading down that path to where we want to be. When we can do this with joy and humility, in love and with grace, those who are dragging their feet will be able to, eventually, catch on and catch up and figure out that this new place we’re going is full and rich and holds blessing for them too.
Part of my reading today included Matthew. What hit me was verse 34 in Chapter six:”So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
All the verses before that one speak of how much we fret over things that we need not worry over, for God does provide. And maybe it isn’t what we’re used to or what we expect or what we want, but it is enough. As a wise man said, we can choose to be happy or we can choose misery. And I know that there are those of us who live in very dark places and it sounds simplistic to say that we can simply choose to be happy. We do have choices, and if we strive to do the next right thing, maybe we can shed a bit of light in someone else’s dark space.
Maybe we can invite them to come in out of the cold (minus seven here yesterday morning) and sit with us before our fire and share our stories.
If I want to show love beyond those who are easy for me to love, then I have to reach out. Does it help to shout out names? Like the Tweets of those we are in the same camp with? Accuse and judge those on the opposite fence? Belittle and destroy and then proudly wear that on our sleeve?
Maybe the answer is sitting down and telling our stories to each other. Maybe we need to hear about “their” growing up, “their” coming from, “their” journey, “their” sorrows and regrets and the grief “they’ve” suffered; then maybe “they” can hear “ours” and “we” can go on to build a better community, to be that best version of our selves, the one created and called into being from the dust of stars.
February is “acts of kindness” month on my work calendar and February also ushered in the season of Lent. As I’ve read my Lenten devotional each day, and had that calendar up on the wall, I’ve realized that just maybe someone is trying to send me a message. I’ve also been reading some poetry about kindness.
From the reading I’ve done, I can see there is a tie between sorrow and kindness. In order to be truly kind, we have to see our own sorrow in the sorrows of others, maybe even those we don’t know. Kindness comes in small everyday actions, but kindness is a an action we choose to take.
To have kindness as my constant companion, I have to be able to see the other side of sorrows. I’ve experienced so much kindness in my life, and as I think about those kindnesses, many of them are linked to sorrows:
Karen texted me scriptures that held me, even in my shock and grief after my sister, Cathy’s, death. Mary stayed with me overnight in the hospital after major surgery. Robert gave me that spring cactus all in bloom after my dad died. And even when I was just a scrawny little girl, Uncle Bob and Aunt Sandy opened their home and made Cathy and me part of their family when we had to go away for a summer. And Kate, always a hand-written note on some beautiful mountain card just when I need it.
Be kind. Do kindness.