Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three Weeks Ago, and Change

I had a perfect day, three weeks ago and change. Sunny. Mid-seventies. Chance of rain: zero. I was with my husband in the mountains, at a special place we go to get away. The fall colors were beginning to peak. En route to our destination we’d stopped at the bank to drop off the last of the paperwork for a piece of land we’d just put under contract the evening before. We set up camp by a lake. There was cobbler, and coffee, and conversation.

We went into town to pick up a couple items we forgot and wound up wandering into a quirky artist’s studio. Miss Clara extended a wrinkled hand, lightly splotched in oils. She explained that, at “eighty and a half” she’d decided to open up shop. Her grand opening had been just two weeks prior. She served coffee in antique tea cups and told us stories of her art, her family, and her younger years. We listened. We lingered. We were in no rush. The day was ours. We bought a painting.

We sat by the lake, eating pizza and perusing a book of home plans. After a spin on our bikes though a thick forest, we read books in the late afternoon sun. We smiled at texts messages from our kids. They loved us. They missed us. They were safe. Life, in those moments, felt like an endless stretch of clear, blue sky and as tranquil as the still lake water. Smooth sailing, I believe they call it.

Forty eight hours later, we were home. Embedded in that day was a bitter truth that life wasn’t as unfettered as it seemed during those peaceful moments. In fact, it was riddled with questions. Doubts. Uncertainties. I’m intentionally vague for multiple reasons: the first being that I am not ready, or even able, to share my woes in their bare, unveiled form. The second is that the specifics of my admittedly standard-issue troubles really don’t matter: your problems, if laid bare before us, would look very much the same. Chances are, I'd even be humbled by comparison.

In those initial moments of enumerating all the ways my life wasn’t as perfect as I thought it was in those fleeting Mountain Moments, I felt angry. Cheated. Robbed. I remembered a perfect weekend, just prior to my thirty first birthday. Sunny. Clear skies. Crisp fall snap in the air. I walked next to my husband, crunching leaves, meandering through shops, poking through shelves of antique books. A woman played a harp. I awoke on Monday to icy rain and a call with bad medical news. I didn’t know when or even if things would ever feel quite so perfect again.

I recalled a moment in Maine, years later, on vacation with my sister and our families. We’d just finished a campfire meal and an evening of games under a canopy of stars. My sister declared that she was completely, perfectly happy. Thunder boomed from the heavens, as if in response. The skies opened and never closed until we wrung out our wet tents and mildewed accouterments days later.

I considered a different evening, this one at my house, one night just before Thanksgiving. There was pumpkin carving, and laughter, and happy kids and days to enjoy more of the same. My sister declared that she was perfectly, completely happy. As if on cue, my daughter’s pet bird died suddenly, and she took it hard, carrying the remains of her friend around in a sealed box. She asked tough questions like the number of days she was likely to live, so she could count them down to the moment that they’d be reunited in heaven, and various other expressions of grief that generally broke my heart.

It seemed to me, then, that perfect moments were nothing more than a signal of impending doom: a built in early warning system indicating a need to run for cover, perhaps even literally, as the experience in Maine so clearly illustrated. I became convinced that the pinnacle of happiness was simply a lofty height from which to plummet. But then? I considered the gift of those moments. I recognized them for the miracle that they are. And I realized how blessed I really am that in this world of disappointment, disillusionment, and impending disaster, that I had a perfect day, just three weeks ago and change.

Today I'm linking up with Tuesdays Unwrapped, where every Tuesday is an opportunity to celebrate the often overlooked pleasures of ordinary life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Still Falling

We're deep into the thick of the season I often reference as Hallothanksmas-- you know, that time of year where one can stand on virtually any street corner and witness turkeys cavorting recklessly with elves and reindeer under the watchful gaze of a tardy grim reaper.

I remember the shock I felt the first time I witnessed a retail establishment trimming trees and tinseling halls in late October. These days, it's not uncommon to encounter Yuletide cheer nestled amongst stacks of lunch boxes and college ruled loose leaf on Labor Day.

Here at Running With Letters, I advocate a strict Seasonal Separation policy. I believe that each season should be savored for its own merits for its full duration. Being, as we are, well over a week away from the Fall Finale of feasting and frivolity that is Thanksgiving, it's still full on fall here.

We're still enjoying evenings around our patio fire pit, enjoying chili and chai, and the leaves that are just now beginning to peak. And pumpkins? They're still everywhere. We haven't carved a single one yet--in our house, that's a Thanksgiving tradition.

What's your policy? Do Christmas decorations go up before Thanksgiving, or after?


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