This may be one of the toughest blogs I've ever written. Not for any serious reason, but for the reason that it's 45 degrees and sunny right now on March 3 in Minnesota, and all around me the world is finally bright again and everything green is waking up. And all I want to do is stand there, feeling the hotness of the spring sun on my back, and drink in the air - without it burning my lungs or my warm breath hanging in the cold air.
Yesterday when we walked outside to drive to school, no small blessing in this year of COVID-19, my 8-year-old son said: "Mom! I can see grass again! Do you see it!"
Our lawn has been mostly covered in snow for around four months now, due to some unexpected October snowfall and frigid February temperatures. March is ordinarily the snowiest month in Minnesota, and I'm certain today is merely what we call "false spring" around here, but nonetheless I'm uncertain if we've ever needed spring quite so badly.
I am a person who loves to make lists of things I need to do each day, and then sometimes I get to cross them off, and that is a wonderful feeling. I'm still clinging to my paper day planner, a custom I think I started in junior high, when I'd write my outfits down each day Monday - Friday. Is it too embarrassing to tell you I developed a pattern that initially included the same outfit each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday?
I was raised with the very American idea that rest is something you earn: like a Sabbath rest on Sunday after my ancestors worked in the fields or the factories the rest of the week.
I kept hearing this whole year from lots of very wise people that the wise thing to do in this year of pandemic and stress and staying home is to get outside and go for walks. My mom and dad have been going for walks almost every single day, even in 0-degree temperatures.
I read in a very wise book, 12 Tiny Things, that just getting outside really is important to how the rest of our lives go. And that we should take time to watch a sunset or a sunrise. Or we should pay attention to the outdoors from the moment we wake up.
And every morning I turn first to my phone, and I read about global or national turmoil, or corrupt politicians, or which bills are due again this month.
For lots of days now I've thought that maybe I will take a walk. But first I needed to read and to work. And even though I've been able to exercise in the basement, I hadn't felt the glow of the sun upon my face. My mom is my usual walking partner, but due to some increased exposure from me and Jacob being back at school, we hadn't walked in awhile. And so I kept finding other things to do, like laundry or chopping vegetables or preparing Lenten services or calling someone on the phone who needed prayer and care.
It's not that the things I was doing weren't valuable or important. But it's that the problem with using relaxation or outdoor time as a reward at the end of your to-do list list is that by the time your to-do list is done it's usually way too late for a walk. The sunset does not cooperate with our modern idolatry of busyness. It rises and sets when it pleases. For this reason I am grateful I don't have blackout blinds or San Diego weather: I am reminded that nature is not adaptable to my schedule.
And so finally today: I finished my reading early and did the laundry and made lunch and miraculously I still had an hour or so before I had to drive to church for Lenten services. I had some errands to run and items to return and a book to mail at the post office, but I had time. I persuaded my 5-year-old son to pull on his socks by himself (a new skill!) and get his coat and boots on and we opened the door and the sun was waiting for us to walk to the park. Then, my husband had a rare break from online meetings and work, and he put on his boots and joined us later at the park, where we'd recovered from an early mishap involving an ice ball thrown at my face from close proximity.
We stood there while our son played at the park, and I felt the heat of the sun on my back, and then we walked around the block. It wasn't enough time. Is it ever enough time? But it was enough time to see the rivulets of water pouring over the street and the pathways near the park, with one large tree encircled in a whole pond of water. The football field was mud. Our back door had become a moat. My husband was worried about re-grading the lawn. I am lucky he worries about those things, because I think only of the world changing and melting before my eyes.
Today melting is a sign of new life: a much-needed thaw in the coldness and anger and fear that we've layered onto ourselves and one another in America in 2021. I watched it melt away before my eyes. We gingerly stepped onto the melting icebergs, and they crunched and collapsed. New life. Tree buds. The inevitable false spring. April blizzards. Teeming new life: squirrels darting out from underneath the deck, worms unearthing themselves, larvae thinking about hatching beneath the lake ice.
For me today melting was joy and happiness and opportunity and change. Even as I know that melting is not always good: on the polar ice caps, the destruction of climate change, the rise in sea levels. When you'd say the word melting when I lived in Las Vegas, I imagined sweaty legs stuck to burning carseats, hot air hitting your face when you opened your car door like a hair dryer blowing arid dust into your face. Condensation covering your cupholder from your iced coffee. The feeling of your entire body melting into the metal bleachers at a Little League game I once covered in July in Southwest Florida.
Melting, like anything or anyone else is relative. It is what we bring to our surroundings and what we know of our context that makes the melting meaningful. Today, melting meant opportunity and sunshine. And I didn't miss it. What did you see today that gave you hope?