Monday, May 02, 2005

It's a Wonder-Full Life

I cannot believe it has been over a week since my last blog. These days have flown by, and they show no signs of slowing down. If today really is the 2nd day of May, then we have only ten days before we are off to Madrid for 33 days. The kids are concerned that a month is too long to be away, that they will miss their friends, and that life will cease as they now know it. I reminded them that it’s been over a month since we returned from England, but it doesn’t feel like very long, does it? Silence. They nodded. I assured them that the month will absolutely fly by; in the end, it won’t feel like long enough.

Let’s see. What has happened to me in the past week? What has happened that is worthy of comment, worthy of the time of my faithful few readers? The grandfather of my dear friend Karen passed away. Yup, that’s right; her grandfather! How awesome for her and her two sisters to have moved fully into adulthood with Grandpa still alive. Even my children, who have already lost both grandfathers to death, were incredulous at the news. I certainly mourn her loss, but I envy her many years with him.

Three friends sent me reading materials in the past week. An article about self-publication (Thanks for the hint, Virginia), someone’s beautiful, but slightly exaggerated Christmas letter, and that kind person who patiently packed my order at sent me two books I will take along on our Iberian adventure. And the week before last, another friend sent a book with recommended sights for our next trip to England. It’s such an honor to be remembered by my friends, to be thought of on a trip to the post office, to be fondly recalled as stamps are posted on envelopes. To receive mail is a miracle unto itself, but to have mail sent with my face and my spirits in mind, that is sublime. As is the heartfelt email. I receive many forwarded stories, poems, jokes, and accounts of political foibles that are usually quickly forgotten. But several recently received tales of forays into Italy, Cuba, Norwalk, Sandy Hook, Wilton, Atlanta, and even my beloved Charlotte – those are the most cherished of all. Thanks again to all who write to me and encourage me to write.

Earlier on this gloriously sunny and warm day, the children and I walked to the home of a neighbor and pried open the door to the tiny little home of six tiny baby bluebirds erected in her backyard. Mama Bird was in the nest with all her babies tucked beneath her, protecting them from the intrusive and noisy Belsito investigative team. We peeked in, wished them well, and then closed the door behind us. On our way past the house, we decided to check on the gecko that lives on her front stoop. Green where his body intersected with the tree and black where its tail crossed the wrought iron handrail, that little crawly critter moved us to giggles as he withdrew haughtily into his leafy loft when we bent in close to stare at him. Just across the street from our house, another neighbor is harboring baby birds in the bush outside her kitchen window. We checked on those slightly older bird-babies on our way home. The sun was shining. Birds were chirping. Three women were trying to figure out the best way to aim wayward sprinkler heads so as not to water the street, and Rocky, the immovable Husky, basked in the sun, expending only enough energy to wag his tail and invite the kids over for a quick back scratch. What a way to begin our homeschooling morning!

After lunch and a trip to Sonic for strawberry limeade, we drove to Kristiana’s horseback riding class. Rolling hills, horses nibbling on grass in the field, cats curling around the feet of watching and waiting parents, and Kristiana trotting around the dirt track atop Gray Master – there was a quiet majesty in that meadow as I stood there smelling the heavy, horsey air, watching planes streak across the clear blue sky, and wondering what could possibly make that moment more wonder-full.

On the way into the house, I grabbed a bag of shrimp out of the garage freezer, sautéed them with butter, olive oil, and garlic salt, and served them with brown rice and spinach salad. The meal was cooked and on the table in less than half an hour. It was a rare culinary moment: no one complained. With the last grains of rice still on his lips, Daniel sprinted outside to join his friends for one last game of basketball before everyone headed in for the evening. Kristiana picked up her pen to continue writing her latest novella: a story of intrigue, defiance, and family ties in a slave cabin back in the 1800’s. I cleaned up the kitchen, took out some garbage, dusted the hardwood floors a little, and then I remembered.

I remembered that in the midst of the most mundane, the washing of dishes, the filling of empty water bottles, the sorting of laundry, the vacuuming of beige carpet, and the drinking of sweet white wine – in the midst of the ordinary, life is extraordinary. Nope, there aren’t always deep lessons to absorb and impart. There aren’t always life-altering conclusions to draw.

Sometimes just being alive is the lesson. To stand there in that field, to watch Kristiana ride her horse, to listen to Daniel’s basketball bouncing on the driveway, to smell the residual shrimpy smell even as I sit her at the computer, to feel the hard plastic of the keys beneath my fingertips, to thank my husband for bringing me this glass of wine, and even to join a friend in weeping over the loss of a loved one, to be aware of all five of my senses – every last bit of it is miraculous.

One of Kristiana’s basketball coaches had a great response every time I used to say, “It’s good to see you.” He’d always say, “It’s good to be seen.” You are absolutely right, John. To be seen, to be above ground, to be breathing and typing and cooking and cleaning and loving my children, even yelling at them for giving me a hard time this morning because hot chocolate and banana bread for a midmorning snack weren’t enough – they wanted the morning off from school – even then, angry and resentful that they weren’t more thankful, I knew that there is great value in the unimportant. Every simple, recurring, monotonous moment of life is to be celebrated. As one of my favorite cinematic characters wrote to her children in her final journal entry: “There is great beauty in the world. Go well, my children.”

That is my daily dream: to see the great beauty that there is in this world, to go well in it and through it, and to celebrate even the most commonplace occurrences. This last blog-less week gone by, I have done just that.

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