“How do you tell people they are walking around shining like the sun?”—Thomas Merton
The sun is shining.
Today the sun is shining and in our corner of the world, in this season, this is cause for celebration. It’s a reason to step outside, all brand new, fresh from winter’s womb. In the early part of the day the chill does not reflect the bountiful warm glow pitched and rising, high in the clear blue sky.
Pulling off wool socks made thin by a season of constant wear, I venture onto the front porch in hopes of connecting my hungry soles with a land I have missed—our closeness obscured these last months by layers of snow and then mud and the thick bottoms of my boots.
The steps are cool, the stone pathway cold, and the grass wet—frigid still, like ice. At first I attempt walking slowly, imagining I might absorb some nourishing element from the ground. Instead, right up to the back of my neck I experience a raw and chilly surface and quickly discard any notion of remaining outside with bare feet for very long.
Moving briskly across the grass, I’m in a beeline for the bed of daffodils and lavender hyacinth Adrian and I planted last fall. Within the direct path of morning sun, this grouping has flourished more than the others, boasting a colorful spring bouquet.
Squatting down, I take a moment to observe what has grown. Looking closely, I witness the sun radiating through the yellow daffodil petals making them glow. Some of the hyacinth blossoms have folded—horizontal with the earth—tipped over by pounding rain on previous days.
I decide to check-in with another flower bed to the right of the house before retreating inside where I can get warm with a steaming mug in my hands. Jogging through the grass I reach the paved driveway, and then slow to walk over to a large shed that has the dual purpose of housing my ever-increasing gardening paraphernalia as well as protecting our plants in the fenced area from fierce winds that come off the water.
A long row of daffodils has sprouted along the grey structure in the narrow bed we created in the fall and lined with stones. Lively yellow flowers are luminous soldiers in a line, unlike some arrangements that come bursting forth in more haphazard formations. I notice that we should have planted them more deeply, some bulbs emerging from the soil. Squatting near to them, I peer down the line and see the way the wind is carrying them side to side in a rhythmic dance. Although these seaside blooms have been slow in their arrival, I can tell they will not be long in staying. This is the way with glorious springtime blooms—though splendid, they are fleeting. For the length of the winter, I’ve been awaiting their arrival.
My damp feet have adhered bits of grass and dirt by now as I hurry back to the house, skipping up the steps, through the heavy screened door and onto the carpet at the entryway, warmth overcoming me. Closing the door behind me, I give the lock a gentle twist to the left, hearing the click of the lock. At the sink I place my hands on the black stone counter and leap a little, lifting myself up onto the surface in a seated position and swinging my feet up and over into the sink in one big motion. Grabbing the faucet, I press the mechanism on the side switching to the shower setting. Warm water is pouring over the tops of my feet—thawing them—soil and little blades of grass flowing away from my feet, into the sink and down the drain.
A memory of Jonah sitting in this very spot comes to my mind as if I am embodying him. I had lifted him there in a time when he was still working out his knowledge of language and making sense of the world. He’d scraped his toe and I’d poured water and salt—selt, he’d called it—into the sink so he could soak in it. Using a small plastic cup, he dipped down into the water, then bringing it back up and pouring it out—creating a waterfall.
His lilting voice, his profound innocence, the slow and tender pace of our interactions wash over me as I think of his little feet having once been in the same sink right there where mine are. In the current era of his development, he’s created cheeky nicknames for me and outgrown his bed. He’s expanding rapidly, like a delighted heart gripped in new-found love. I try to restrain myself from disturbing his exquisite unfolding, noticing with pride the places where tenderness has taken root.
In the late morning I conclude a flurry of laundry and cooking where I’ve been utilizing the whitest whites function of my washing machine for getting stains out of supremely soiled clothing; and filling the slow cooker in the hopes of dinner being expedited after a full evening of sports. While working I’ve been listening to a drone of social commentary that seems to act as a reverse power cord, draining and separating me from a world in which an abundance of worthy things are happening, particularly things taking root right inside my own front door.
On the cozy bench beside the porch window, I wrap a plaid wool blanket around my back and waist, nestling in and opening a book I’ve been reading. It’s a spiritually oriented work with promises written across the back cover. Answers that will surprise and sustain you. It’s nothing trendy—quite the opposite. I find and take a pencil from an engraved silver cup on the windowsill—a gift for my mother, given upon my birth. Folding the front cover back, I begin re-reading a few passages from where I had left off. With the absorption of just a few paragraphs I notice a shift in my state. I remember having appreciated the passage I ended on, and now its emphasis is hitting me once again. It seems this is the place and the moment where I can be still and partake in an unbuckled heart.
Continuing to read, it feels as if I have landed into the arms of a powerful and distinctly benevolent force wrapping me up much in the way of the blanket surrounding me. I haven’t arrived, nor met something, instead I have unblocked my ability to sense what is always there, present and available.
Tears spring to my eyes and my heart seems to burst with a sense of release, and relief. I did not know I had been holding onto anything but sitting quietly, listening to the sounds beyond the windows, I recognize that I am only now fully arriving in my being.
There are promises written here in the words before me that I value knowing—life’s mysteries heightened as time marches on like the daffodil soldiers lined and moving in my yard. I absorb perspectives on the human condition as if it is my job, my joy. Poetry, religious texts, and nuanced works of literature are my constants—ways of piecing together the enigmatic covenant of love and redemption in a way that I can understand.
Right now my emotions are a swirling squall rippling through my inner landscape of questions as companions.
When will I finish?
Why is it taking so long?
How can I help her?
How long do we have?
Then just as suddenly as the feelings erupted, they transmute into a gentle balm of appreciation—the storm having made malleable the stuck parts of me.
How can this all be mine?
They are all so beautiful.
It’s ok to not know.
I’ve done enough.
Soon it is afternoon, and the sun has had a chance to warm the ground and pave the way for a slow and comfortable walk without shoes. The wooden steps down from the porch are thoroughly heated and soothe the bottoms of my feet. As I walk across the stone path, I clasp a pair of scissors in my hand. The wolf statue is nestled into a small evergreen and appears to be leaning in for an embrace. The grass is dry and comfortable now as I relish a walk across it. Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse a bird overhead. Looking up into the vast blue sky I witness a hawk gliding by. Massive trees are towering all around, limbs swaying just slightly.
Breaking a moment that could go on and on, I continue walking back toward the bed with the lavender hyacinth. My plan is to salvage the flowers that have been pushed down by the rain. When I get to them, I come to my knees and lift one up from the ground, bringing its petals to my face. The aroma is powerful like a strong perfume, first sweet but then followed by the hint of an earthy balm. I’m examining the intricate weave of petals—a most delicate artistry of their very own—and in awe of the magnificence of what has erupted from a single bulb kept snug in the ground through the harshness of winter.
Inside I climb onto a tall metal chair to reach a glass vase from a high shelf. My wish is to be able to see the green stems submerged in water through the glass container. Placing the fresh cut blooms in the vase and stepping back, my heart is quickened at the site of the colorful spring display.