Everything Is Coming Back to Life

Last night my family and a few neighbors circled around our backyard fire pit.  The evening reaffirmed my belief that most everything seems right with the world when you're sitting beside a campfire.

I mean, how can you argue with this?

After enduring eleven thousand weeks of perpetual winter, we're turning a corner.  Last night's campfire proved it.  Spring seems to have gained traction in the seasonal tug-of-war, making me believe that maybe -- just maybe -- I could wash and stow the winter jackets, hats, and gloves for the year.

The grass, the daffodils, the crab apple blossoms!  Everything is coming back to life, including me. 

Thank God for spring, for newness, for fresh breezes.  Spring, we're happy you're here.  Please stay awhile. 


Because "NOT Doing" is Harder than "Doing"

We've reached the inevitable point in the semester where something always needs to be graded, from here on out, forever and ever and ever, amen.  (Or at least until I submit final grades, which feels like a terribly distant goal, even though it'll actually come to pass in slightly under four weeks.)

Yes, it's crunch time.  Each day I cross off items from my to-do list, but then immediately add others onto the same list, like some law of conservation where tasks are neither created not destroyed, just shifted into another form.  I can't entirely discern if I'm riding this wave of work or getting rolled by it.  I only know to keep swimming.

(Periodically, I even mutter to myself, Dory-style, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming." My forgetfulness is also heightened, but I think the similarities end there.)

The other day I tapped into a practice that I used to do, circa 1996-2000 during my undergraduate years.  I headed to the library (not my office, not my desk at home, not my kitchen table), found an empty cubicle, and set up camp where I told myself, "Self, you will not leave this cubicle until these three tasks are finished."

And it worked.  One by one, I finished grading a series of technical presentations.  One by one, I read a week's worth of student blog entries.  One by one, I responded to emails.  For four hours there were no distractions, no interruptions, no outside demands from students dropping by or my own children vying for my attention.  Nobody knew where I was, in fact. 

There was only quiet.  It was simply me in my isolated cubicle, swimming along in a current of anonymous productivity.

It's not that working for four hours is all that impressive or unique; it's having four entirely uninterrupted hours.  (Perhaps that's sad commentary on our fragmented days where too much clamors for attention, even nonessential drivel, all the time.)

It also made me realize that doing the work is rarely as hard as having it hang over my head.

If it takes a cubicle to make this happen, then bring on the cubicle.


Surprisingly Beautiful, Surprisingly Wonderful

I know that it occasionally snows in April, but there's a difference between cognitively understanding this and actually expecting it to occur.  But it did occur, as if nature played a last-ditch April Fools joke on us overnight, then softly chuckled and channeled its inner Mr. T ("Pity the fools!") while we shoveled our driveways and brushed off our cars this morning.

I've tolerated winter for the past several months, but now I've moved past winterish practices, both mentally and physically.  I vehemently object to them, in fact, but despite my internal protest the snow still fell last night.

And this morning it was surprisingly beautiful.

Yes, as I walked across campus to reach my first class of the day, sidestepping clumps of snow as they dropped from the treetops onto the sidewalks below, I couldn't get over how stunning it was.  I mean, it was the perfect snowfall.  Every branch was coated.  It was magical and whimsical, like Narnia. 

And it was fleeting.  By the time I left campus, the trees had shed their magical covering and the snow melted in rivulets across parking lots and sidewalks.  (Clearly, the next stop on this train lurching toward spring will be mud season.)

When I arrived home, I found that my kitchen had been occupied by my daughters and several of their friends.  With the whole day off from school for parent-teacher conferences, they already had gone sledding and shed their snowsuits, boots, and gloves at our front door.  Now they were immersed in the next activity of the day: hosting a Chopped cooking championship at our kitchen island.  (I entered during the appetizer round.)

It was a hot mess involving Tabasco sauce, lemon juice, sandwich rolls, roasted red peppers, and a host of other assorted ingredients (leftover hard boiled eggs! Nilla Wafers! Garlic! Parmesan cheese!), but the scene was surprisingly wonderful, too.  I sat in the adjacent room to work at the computer, overhearing the "host" interview the "contestants" and count down the timer: "One minute!  You have one minute!  It's time to start plating!"  One chef chided the others, "Clean your stations as you go!"

This day surprised me.  I hadn't expected or wanted snow, but it came and it was beautiful.  I hadn't expected seven kids to raid my refrigerator and host a mock cooking show at my kitchen island, but they did and it was delightfully creative.

It's good to look for what's surprisingly beautiful, surprisingly wonderful.

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