31 March 2014

with the windows open

She decided she would sleep with the windows open because why shouldn't she?

The day had been warm—the first truly warm day of the year, although she knew the day would come soon when she would think of 57-degrees as "cool."

Not today, though. Today the sun had shone {and what a funny word that is: shone, rhymes with Rhone, and spring always does make her think of France}.

Earlier in the day, she'd taken a walk, and walking down the street with her were streams of people, flowing out of their homes where they'd been iced in all winter. Now with this warmth and with this sun, people came out: broad smiles, hi-how-are-you to all the neighbors, looking up and around for the first time in months.

On a day like today—when you can just start to remember the possibilities that abound in every day—it's impossible to not sleep with the windows open. To feel that edge in the air as you drift off to sleep is to feel that life is almost too much.

She'd been reading Katherine Mansfield recently. {That's obvious, isn't it? It must be obvious.} Re-reading is more like it, but early spring days were made for Katherine Mansfield's flits of sparkling, shining words that fairly danced on the page.

Reading about garden parties and days at the shore: it was all she could do to not dream of big houses by the sea, houses full of girls in pale pastel dresses drinking tea with men wearing ascots.

With the windows open late at night, she could almost pretend well enough that that was the world she lived in. But then the train lumbered on by, blowing his horn—and oh! She could hear it all so clearly because the window was open.

Just as it should be: open to whatever came her way.

20 March 2014

let it snow

"The thing I don't like," I told a friend as we drove through Glen Ellyn, "are people who still have up their outside Christmas decorations. I realize that it's been -40 degrees out and snowy and dangerous, so I can cut some slack for still having the decorations out. But why do they still light them?"

I was speaking specifically about this house that still has up those blow-up outdoor decorations. You know, the kind that inflate with a fan and tend to dance around a bit, as if Santa and his elves are studying to be Elvis. They're noisy and they're big, and even though we are now months from Christmas, I can't think of them without feeling quite bah-humbug.

And I can't help but think of them since a house in my neighborhood still has them up.

"Christmas is long gone! Let it go! It's practically spring!" Perhaps because I don't have enough to be frustrated about in my life, I decided to make up some aggression and stress related to Christmas decorations—maybe, but I'm going to think about that later. Right now, I'm going to say:


In fact, wait, no, let me revise that: as of today, IT IS SPRING.

We have made it, everyone. It has been a long, cruel, strange, record-breaking winter, but we have survived, and for that we deserve a prize.

Prizes I Would Accept Related to Spring

  • Tulips
  • Sleeping with the windows open
  • Asparagus
  • Taking Little Pug for a long walk and watching her try to jump over puddles as all the snow melts
  • Speaking of which: MELTED SNOW {so I guess I'm saying that I would accept water as a prize}
  • Reading outside
  • Green grass
  • Daffodils
  • People taking down their Christmas decorations

Ah, yes, the Christmas decorations. I think it's safe to say that I was ranting about them because I was upset that it was March and still so snowy and icy out, but it's illogical to be upset at the weather. I took it out on Christmas decorations instead, which, by the way, is the smart way to handle frustration: displacement and getting upset over something trivial.

After I finished my rant, huffing and puffing as I glared at the Santa blow-up, my friend cautiously said, "But don't you still have up a Christmas wreath inside?"



Technically, yes.

But really, when you think about it, why limit wreaths to just Christmas time? They are, much like snowmen and salt-stained snow boots, a winter decoration. They bring the cheer of that holiday season—when we all marvel at having a tree in our house—into what would be the more blah months of January and February.

Yes, that sounds good.

I tried this reasoning on my friend, who said nothing in return and instead let a pointed silence fall as the best way of pointing out my hypocritical ways.

I wondered, at that point, if I should also remind her that I have on my kitchen windowsill this wooden cutout thing of snowmen. One of them is holding a sign that says "Let It Snow."

Now, clearly, that is a winter decoration, but keeping it up all the way through March may have been sending mixed signals to the weather. A wintry mix, if you will.

On the one hand, I say that while the snow is lovely, I believe it should be done because I'd like to go outside sans snowboots for the first time in months.

On the other hand, I stick a sign by the window encouraging MORE SNOW.*

And on both hands, the only conclusion is: I brought all this snow on us by leaving up my snow signs for far longer than I should.

I am sorry. I will buy everyone tulips to make up for it.

* I should also point out, but in a place that maybe not many people will read it**, that I also have a cross-stitched decoration up on my bedside table—it's of a snowman, and my grandma made it. He looks delighted at the snowflakes all around him {as he should since they're his lifeblood}, and he's grinning at a sign that says "Let It Snow."

** And I should point out that on my kitchen window, I have these fun sticky letters that spell out {of course} "Let It Snow." Man, I really seem to be stuck in an obvious rut with my winter decorations.

05 March 2014

the hope of ash wednesday + lent

Lent has begun, and I am tired. When I woke up this morning and peeked out the window, I saw that it was snowing—again—and I wanted to crawl back in bed.

From the bed you came, and to the bed you shall return, I thought. How liturgically appropriate today, on Ash Wednesday.

I couldn't return to bed: it's the middle of the week, and tired or not, snowing or not, I needed to go to work.

Especially this year as I enter Lent, this season is feeling like a blanket. It usually does. In the cold, dark winter, Lent can feel like a time to burrow in. To dig deep. To look at all that is hard in the world around us and to still see hope.

And you have to choose to see hope, don't you? We're reminded of that every winter, when we've forgotten what grass looks like; it has been that long since we've seen what's hiding under the snow. The grass will green again, of course it will, but seeing past the cold ground takes a different set of set—hopeful ones.

Lent takes the same set of eyes. On Ash Wednesday, we pray: "Father, in Your mercy, look upon us in our weakness; and for the glory of Your name turn away from us all those evils, which we have deserved. Grant that in all our trouble our whole trust and confidence may be in You."

And we pray: "Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness."

We think about the ways we have pulled back from God, and the ways that we are masking our sins from him—and even from ourselves. We acknowledge, one more time, our smallness, and we can start to feel the hopelessness of that smallness.

What you can choose to hear during Ash Wednesday is, essentially: You have sinned, you will sin again, and then you will die.

Where the hope in that? Where's the hope in smearing your forehead with ash—a dead, killed thing?

And Lent, with its focus on self-sacrifice, denial, mortification of the flesh, and fasting—how does that hold hope?

Oh, it's there.

It's there when you kneel to say: I need more of you, Lord. I'm so bone-tired from relying on my own strength, from thinking that if I just make one more list or get up 30 minutes earlier or don't ever ever ever think about all that is hard and lost in the world—if I can just stay in control, then I'll be fine.

Hope is there when you pray: Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. I don't even know what to say beyond those words, and so I will mumble them along with the rest of these people kneeling around me.

Hope is there when you've come to the end of yourself, and that is exactly is where Ash Wednesday and Lent can bring you. It is cold and it is dark, but just as in winter, you know that spring will come, and oh, how glorious it will feel.

Ash Wednesday
Christina Rossetti

My God, my God, have mercy on my sin,
For it is great; and if I should begin
To tell it all, the day would be too small
To tell it in.

My God, Thou wilt have mercy on my sin
For Thy Love's sake: yea, if I should begin
To tell Thee all, the day would be too small
To tell it in.


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