An Ordinary New Year
With the holidays and New Year’s upon me, I feel the urge to encapsulate. It’s no surprise, really, given the propensity of our culture to summarize (140 characters anyone?) and reflect, especially this time of year. I think reflection is wonderful–one of the most powerful ways to navigate and learn–really, truly, learn.
I feel as if I can smell the departure of 2011. Giant hands of time lower to snuff out another calendar year, leaving the scent of recently truncated time in its path. Gray smoke of days-past encircles me and I’m straddling two years. I feel like I’m here and there yet know I can only be Now.
I sit in conflict with the concept of reflection and the concept of being present. Just being, right here, is equally important. I juggle between these two desires: to gain insight and to just live. It takes a delicate mix, with a pinch of each, to achieve the right formula. Although I’m heeding the siren’s call to reflect on 2011 and the upcoming 2012, I’m also trying desperately (ironic, I know) to enjoy ordinary, average days. The kind where just the sun shining and the ticking off of items on my To Do list fill me with unparalleled joy and accomplishment.
A few days ago the list was lengthy. Blood work. Check. Recycling center. Check. McDonald’s Diet Coke and french fries, Check. Park, library. Get Abby her own library card. Check, check, check. Pay enormously huge late fee for book found in mud room, in a brown paper sack. Check.
Despite the methodical nature of the day, it provided much unanticipated joy. My kids were cranky at some points in this average day, and I was, too. This wasn’t a magical day, at least not by traditional standards. It was a day of no expectation, a day of contented togetherness.
While at the park, the late afternoon sky took my breath:
And this pattern beneath my feet grounded me, a talisman of the moment:
As I write, I honor the flow of this particular day. Henry rocks in the yellow, stuffed rocking in my office. The wooden runners of the chair connect loudly with the hardwood floors. I squelch the urge to quiet him. My fingers hit the keys of my lap top, clicking a staccato rhythm to Henry’s rocking. The 70-year-old faded quilt, hung over the chair’s back, sways quickly, blurring its pale colors. One day, that chair, where I nursed babies and myself, will sit empty. Down the hall, Abby is running a bath while signing the Who’s Christmas song from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Henry joined her, as he rocks.
I’m reminded of a passage from Katrina Kenison’s gorgeous memoir, The Gift of an Ordinary Day,
This, I realize, is what I’ve wanted all along: to be more attentive, to honor the flow of days, the passing of time, the richness of everyday life.
The richness lives in each day, whether I choose to hold it or not. My hope for 2012 is this: average days. I would covet a series of ordinary moments, strung together like worn, well-loved, ancient quilt squares. Where I proceed slowly enough to touch the holy:
The unexpected warmth of a December afternoon, spent with my children, eating dark chocolate truffles at the park.
The brilliance of children’s laughter, bounding off of slides and chasing the already-gone paths of my children.
The awareness to know what fills me up and the wisdom to stop long enough to refuel. I want to repeatedly topple over with grace and thanks, brimming with gratitude.
On our way home from the library the other day, we drove home on a wonderfully curvy, treed road. As we descended one of the curves, a resplendent, orange sunset greeted us. Black trunked trees were silhouetted against the sunset’s gilded hues. It was so stunning that I pulled over to the side of the road and pressed the hazard button.
“Mommy, what are you doiwg?”, asked Henry.
“Look. Just look at the sunset guys. Look at the way the orange light tips the barren tree trunks”, I replied.
“You’re going to take a picture, right, Mom?” Abby asked, with just a touch of sarcasm.
Quotidian, holy moments abound.