whispering in the new year…
might as well call this the front pew of my best church: i am home (as in home home) and sitting at my kitchen table, a pot of paperwhites tumbling its potent perfume, my old blue calico coffee mug a fist’s reach away.
it is hushed here, save for the tick and tock of the old clock i wound the other night when i found it stilled. the world beyond my window panes is blanketed in that rare snowy-morning quiet, so cotton-covered you could hear the flutter of a blue jay’s wing. which i hope to do, any moment now, now that i’ve scattered peanuts in the shell, and suet balls, and corn dried on the cob.
the morning light is bathed in the blue rinse of just past dawn. and dawn, i realize now, comes later here than back in cambridge, where the old faithful orb rising over the atlantic signals to the whole continent that the globe has spun again, and shadows soon will fall again. i slept without alarm and was surprised to wake up and see it was nearly seven bells. i slept in my old bed, between my old sheets, looking out on my nighttime tableau, the one i thought i knew by heart. but a couple mornings here, i’ve been all confused when i awoke. where am i? whose bed is this?
my little one said it best: christmas night all he wanted was a bubbly bath back in the old tub at the top of the stairs. so i went up to help him stir the froth. while he slipped into bathing gear (aka the stark nakedness of a boy), i spied a candy bar wrapper in the bathroom waste basket, and asked (since we’d just finished christmas dinner) if he’d eaten a candy bar before dinner (mothers ask these things, especially when the evidence is blatantly before their eyes).
“yeah,” he said. “i was sad.”
why were you sad? i asked, my breath sucked away by his candor, his capacity for unembellished zing straight to the core of his heart.
“because we’re home but it doesn’t feel like home.”
it’s like that when you sprout roots for a new place, but you come back to the old place. even when the place you come back to is the place you’ve been longing, aching, to be. even when the place you come back to was all dressed up for christmas by the elf who is living here while you’re away.
it takes some wobble time, till you figure out just where you are. till you catch your rhythm once again.
life, when you’re paying attention, isn’t often straight lines. rarely is. is rarely simple, pure, unfettered. it’s textured and shadowed, and full of zigs and zags. and therein lies the glory and the struggle.
that little fellow is far away right now, far away as i sit in my front row pew, keeping watch on the skittering about the backyard, now that squirrel and sparrow have sniffed out the morning’s repast. that little fellow is, for a few sweet days, up in the northwoods of wisconsin with one of his best best buddies, one he’s missed so much.
so i’m home alone with the college kid, and we’ve had long hours for conversations right here in the kitchen where so many have unfolded, going back 10 years (we moved into this old house 10 years ago, yesterday), going back to the heartaches of middle school, and straight on through to college quandaries, puzzles, and lessons learned.
because college kids are in the business of sleeping till dusk (we were scrambling breakfast eggs at 4 the other afternoon, i kid you not), i’ve the whole morning to myself. a holier launch to the new year, i can’t conjure up.
there’s been much that’s unfolded since last i was here, much that still is working its way into the depths of me, that i won’t fully understand for years most likely. you don’t try to catch mouthfuls from a firehose too many times in one sweet life, and when you are standing before the spigot all you do is swallow, swallow, swallow.
so it’s been in cambridge, 02138 and 02139.
now back in 60091, even for this too-short interlude, i’m too much in the midst of it, still asking too many unanswered questions, still finding my way too much to know just how it will all re-shape me. all i know is that it will, it has.
and, open vessel to what comes, i say: bring it on.
but here, on the cusp of this new year, this next chance to whirl around again, i am arms outstretched, head bowed, knees bent. i am walking in a veil of prayer.
i am seeking the unannounced tap on the shoulder, those moments when you realize you’ve just witnessed something holy. you’ve been brushed by the goodness of a stranger — or, better yet, the dearest sort of friend. you’ve felt a window in your mind slide open. you’ve beheld the pure and beautiful.
i am praying for protection, for white light to surround the ones i love, wherever they roam. whatever rivers they barrel down. whatever mountains they climb, or clouds they pierce through, on their way to faraway places.
i am praying, madly, for peace to settle in the turbulent hearts that populate the land. too many lands.
i am beseeching the Holy to plunge once again into the reserves of mercy, to forgive us all our sins and shortcomings, to bolster us in the places where we wobble, can’t catch our breath.
i am promising to marvel, to pay acute attention, and to be gentle — to myself, perhaps, most of all.
and my highest-launched prayer would be the one in which i remember to behold each morning as if a freshly-opened gift, and all day long i aim to stitch it with the majesty due another slice of being here. which simply put means being wholly, intently, alive.
to which i whisper, softly, amen, amen.
what do you pray for as this new year inches toward us?