In the almost spring, winter coats and snow pants are left behind in a heap
sweatshirts litter the lawn.
I peer each day at the green shoots by the door.
Look! A snow drop. Tight this morning, opened wide in the afternoon.
I haunt the rhubarb patch looking for bulbous round red knobs,
precursors to wrinkled leaves growing, growing, growing . . .
I can’t play hooky so I sit on the porch and marvel
at the warmth—it’s still March.
A neighbor calls: “The bears! Headed your way!”
Watch from the porch as they waddle silently across the street.
In the almost spring, my kids dig worms, build forts
come in with brown knees smelling of dirt.
I breathe it in and smile.
What signs of (almost) spring did you find today?
The close of the year is an opening to a new one. The recently passed solstice, the turn of the calendar both call us to shift our cycles. What can you let go of? What will you embrace?
I intended to write about the light-dark / ending-beginning of this month last week on solstice, but I felt called instead to make space. I stepped away from the computer a lot. I read. I brought my hands into a warm ball of dough and baked bread. I breathed deep in the twinkling light of the tree and the flicker of the fire. I read some more.
With all the to-dos of this month behind me, but a little more celebration and family time to go, I’m sinking into the open space I deliberately created—no work in this interholiday week of school vacation.
2015 Year in Review
Back in January, I set open as my word of the year. Aside from this open space here at the end of the year, how else did I open?
I opened to new ideas about my work and ended up with this. I don’t know why I resisted change for so long, but I’m loving the ghostblogging/content management world I’m thriving in.
I opened my door each morning and stepped outside. I looked up at the trees and the sky. I counted crows, black spots against the blue. I found the lingering moon and noticed pink-gold streaks. I felt the ground firm but yielding beneath my feet. I opened my eyes to notice.
I opened up space in my schedule for writing that I felt called to do. I was consistent with it for a while. I need to step back and re-open that space.
I opened to hope, as I do each spring, and to being in the moment with my kids.
I opened to possibility, to figuring out how instead of saying I can’t. In the past, friends would post about trips they had taken and I’d wonder how they managed. Who watched their kids? How did they afford it? How did they find time in a schedule that seems always too full? But when an old college friend asked a small group of us to get together, I was open to making it happen—and I ended up soaking up the quiet and the deep conversations in Tucson.
I opened to adventure, the kind I haven’t had in years.
I opened to the fullness of my experience in December as I do each year—and got surprised.
I didn’t open my body with yoga like I intended (though I have a plan for next September when I have two kids in school full time).
I didn’t open up more space in my house the way I wanted to. Clearing out clutter has been a molasses slow process, and the open space I create seems to fill in almost immediately. I’m still working on that one. It’s a good goal for a new year.
The year is closing, but a new one opens. I’m thinking about what I want that year to feel like and staying open possibility.
What openings did you create last year? What openings do you see coming in the new year?
Just when you feel you are going to break,
when the light-dark of this month
and all that you do to embrace the light:
the birthday party planning
figuring out when you will go see the trains and the Christmas lights
and is there time to make cookies?
starts to feel like too many to dos,
when you wonder what else you can peel off,
you get a reminder to go for a run.
You get a reminder to slow down.
You take a walk, feel the bright sun, and notice the silver-white frost still furring the shade.
Just when you don’t know what to do next,
your neighbor says, “Pulled pork for dinner—with stuffed jalapenos and beer?”
Just when you are cursing this month and wishing again that you could jump ahead to January,
you get a message from a friend. “It’s December. How are you?”
Just when the darkness is settling,
the lights on the tree you did put up, joyfully, thoughtfully
with the stories of each ornament,
glimmer and set the room aglow.
Sometimes, just when, you need help, a hand, a smile, it comes.
This morning when I stepped out early, the grass was crispy with frost. I could see the squirrel’s nest in the tree down the driveway. A single crow perched at the top of the dying tree that threatens our car. My eyes find squirrels in the trees, movement more than color or shape in the skeletons of the stripped down trees.
It’s a month of paring back. Simplifying. Stripping down.
Apparently I’ve stripped away words. While one of my friends tries to write a novel for NaNoWriMo and another blogs daily for NaBloPoMo, I’ve been absent here, writing less, not more.
It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I’ve finished an essay and, just this morning, an article. Both have been lingering in half-forgotten folders on my computer and dusty corners of my mind. But in the mornings when I’m up, I find myself just sitting. I crave stillness and quiet. I wrap my hands around a mug of ginger tea for warmth. I slowly breath in the steam rising from the cup. It is the closest I come to meditation.
I find myself standing outside feeling the sun on my back, watching the clouds scuttle across the sky or peering down at the bees crawling all over the pale pink mums with their yellowed centers, still working. Like the squirrels in the trees, it’s the motion first that catches my eye. And I watch.
There are leaves to get up, wood to move, flower pots to tuck away in the barn. There are stories to tell, words to get out, but right now, I’ve pared back. I get still. I watch. Getting quiet, noticing. This is my work too.
The words will come back, like the leaves, but right now is a time to find out how much there is to see when everything is stripped down.
Four tomatoes hung in a small cluster, orange-red, with a bit of yellow on the shoulders. The other plants hold hard only green stones or tiny yellow flowers. I picked the first, held it warm from the sun. Every year when I pick the first tomato, I want to hold it up reverently, slice it ceremoniously, share it in the celebration of the first tomato.
Every year I remember that my kids don’t like tomatoes and my husband would think the first tomato celebration silly and a bit much. So I savor it myself, slicing it and sprinkling the ribbons of basil, drizzling the olive oil, sitting at the picnic table to eat because that burst of summer should be eaten outside. Or I stand in the garden, sun-warm tomato in my hand and eat it, slowly, juice dripping down my chin. Either way, a celebration.
I walk through my garden regularly, seeing what’s ready to be picked, what needs some attention, what’s going to be ready to pick. (Keep an eye on those zucchinis.) I enjoy all the foods that come out of my garden, but I don’t look forward to many of them the same way I look forward to tomatoes.
This year, four came ripe together and I bit into one in the garden, bursting its skin, the juice coming out with almost a pop. I ate the others under the pear tree, ignoring bickering at the dinner table and licking a bit of juice-flecked oil from my thumb.
More tomatoes will come and I’ll enjoy them fresh and slow-roasted with garlic. I’ll make sauce and simmer them into salsa. I’m looking forward to tomato bounty (fingers crossed against late blight, a problem I haven’t had yet, and septoria spot, which I have), but I celebrate that first tomato.
What part of summer are you celebrating right now?
Celebrating tomatoes is really about slowing down and savoring. It’s about finding and holding joy in small things.
What can you celebrate today? What can you notice? Think small and focus on your senses. Enjoy!