it was a day
the sunniest and warmest day we’ve had so far this year
and people were out and about in sandals and t shirts
and I was driving with my windows rolled down
humming to myself
and I saw them
and I wished I’d had my camera because the scene was so precious
and the color so amazing
and so I blinked just to save the picture in my mind
two children walking behind their hand holding parents
bending to gather fistfuls of dandelions
it was a day, that kind of day
Sometimes when I get stuck in my writing I try to name whatever essential emotion I am feeling in the moment and then track down its source and write about it. Today, the word that popped into my head to describe how I feel right now is “stymied.”
And —- (because I love going on little word hunts thanks to my dad, he was well known to bring dictionaries and encyclopedias to the dinner table while we were growing up….)
And—- (thanks to my techy devices which make it soooooooo easy to traipse down rabbit holes and wander in wordy wonderlands…..)
I looked up the word “stymied.” Humph! I thought for sure it would have something to do with “sty” because when one is stymied, one certainly feels mired in mud, but no! The word stymied (definition “a situation or problem presenting difficulties as to discourage or defeat any attempt to deal with or resolve it”) seems to have originated as a golf term.
(who wouldda thunk?)
from the Scottish word for “person who sees poorly.”
So if I am truly stymied, perhaps there is something I am not seeing.
Do you have causes that provoke your engagement more than others? How do you describe that alertness that comes when people you love or issues you care deeply about are threatened?
I have one friend who says she feels her “hockey elbows” come out, another who says she becomes a mama bear. I’m not sure how I would describe myself in those situations. I know I’ve said at least once that I feel my cape unfurl. I just know I am aware when it happens and become wide awake to important work to do.
It happened to me today.
yesterday dawned dark and rainy
it was not a good day for a sunrise service
but worship inside with trumpets and tulips was wonderful
yesterday afternoon was not a good one for a walk
the sky spit rain unpredictably and it was chilly
but it was a good day to do taxes
yesterday evening’s light lingered long
plenty of time for reading a new book
and enjoying a roast from the slow cooker
yesterday was exactly what I needed
I don’t think about my son’s legs anymore. But there was a time when they consumed much thought, active care, worry and despair. My son was born with spina bifida and club feet. His little frog shaped legs had to be straightened through serial casting – that is a “series” of castings, 16 to be exact – between his birth and the time he was 20 months old.
Unlike most toddlers, he didn’t clutch my hips with his legs because of his paralysis and his legs hung heavy and limp when I carried him. As he grew they became more weighty in more ways than one; they became a health risk. Finally at some point in his early 20’s, (funny I can’t even remember when,) he had them amputated.
I regret not saying good bye to those legs.
When the woman came to me at the foot washing station in church on Maundy Thursday, raised her pant legs and uncuffed the velcro of the brace around her calf, memories flooded back. Tears were in her eyes for this vulnerability she was revealing and tears were in mine for her trust and remembering.
I saw azaleas for sale at Winco today and was reminded of one of our first neighbors in the condo complex we live in now. Bill moved in about the same time we did and planted 6 azaleas in the little patch he had by his front door. He dutifully tended them. He was also very attentive to his mint condition Lincoln Continental.
Only one azalea made it to the next year. Bill got really sick and was in a nursing home for awhile. He returned to his condo for another year but told us he knew he was living on borrowed time. When he died, a nephew came to pick up that pristine Continental.
My husband and I and Bill were among the first people to move into this 25 unit complex. Thinking of him today made me aware of the fact that Mike and I were also among the first to live in the small cul de sac we raised our kids in for 25 years. Others came and went but we were the last of the “original” owners to finally move away.
I’m wondering if it will be the same in this complex. Already there have been two owners in the unit above us and Bill’s place is home to a young couple now. The complex seems to be a mix of young couples and middle age-close-to-retirement people like us. We’ve been here for 10 years now; it will be interesting to see who comes and goes over the next decade.
Our school has some classes that partner up for activities, older and younger. Sometimes it is for book reading or an art project. Sometimes it is “just because.”
My class is lucky to fall into the latter category. It began early in the year when a 5th grade teacher noticed my preschoolers in puppy bunches in the hallway on the way to lunch and asked if I could use some help from her students. It was an offer I would never refuse and has been a Godsend.
Since then, her students come down for our last 10 minutes before lunch and join into whatever our class is doing at the time and then help us wash up for lunch. A few of them even bring their lunch trays back and eat with us in the classroom.
The fifth graders help with the kindergarten class too and the teacher there has noted that her students are learning “love language” from these powerful older role models. Her students adore these 5th graders as much as mine do.
I would like to give special credit to these two 5h grade teachers who run their classes with the kind of positive energy and dedicated relationship building I’ve seen in church youth groups. There is a special vibe in that class this year due to the work of Tara and Jamie and my students are benefiting from it too.
Today I took my students in to an all school assembly for the first time this year because we were dedicating our new playground. I asked Tara if my kids could sit in the laps of her kids. “Absolutely,” she said. My kids sat through an hour long assembly on a gym floor and I credit their attention and engagement to their sweet 5th grade caregivers.
I want to tell you about the swans:
how they come all at once,
white arrows honking
against steely gray December skies.
Landing as a white mass
in the canes of muddy corn fields.
Always by the road side
they are there.
I want you to know how I see them,
day after day,
even as the snowline rises
back up the hillside,
and rain falls and floods the ditches
and the windswept land.
I want you to know how the swans come
But I also want you to know
how they leave.
Not as a mass,
rising and flying in familiar formation
against the sky.
No, they just go.
In the cusp of a new season
they are no longer there
on my drive to work each day.
I realize their absence
and I see:
the yellow of daffodils and forsythia,
the rose of cherry blossoms and magnolia.
What birds have come in their place
I do not know.
I only know the swans are gone
and spring is come.
A week ago Tuesday, one of our newest staff members, sent out an email inviting us to participate in a little week of secret gifting. There are staff members who are secret pals for the whole year, but this was an invitation to 5 days worth of gifting with a strict dollar amount for each day.
She created little questionnaire for each participant to fill out about our favorite hot drinks, cold drinks, candy, flower and scent preferences and if there was any one thing to stay away from. Those who wanted to play along folded and taped their questionnaire to the white board in the staff room and last Friday we picked one so we could prep for being sneaky secret little Easter bunnies.
I had a fun weekend thinking about what I would give to my honey-bunny staff member and preparing little packages to deposit in her mail box each day. I’ve also been receiving little surprises of my own: a little bag with two big York mints, a homemade batch of lemon bars, (mom I promise I will share,) and today a gift certificate to a local coffee shop.
But I believe the best gift is the spirit of it all. Report cards are done, spring break is coming up – yes, those things help the general demeanor of the staff. But secret pals – c’mon! You’ve got to admit, that is waaaay better!
I wrote a poem a few days ago about feeling bitter.
My mom called to ask if everything was all right. “You sounded down in the dumps.”
“No, mom, it’s just that I occasionally have negative thoughts.”
“Well I guess I do too but I don’t write about them.”
These words from my mom imply an unspoken question: “Why do you write about bad feelings?” More to the point: “Why do you publish poems about your bad feelings?”
Blogs are easy places to rant and when I started by first blog, it was because I wanted to rant. It still happens occasionally. But mostly I want to write and self expression is a deep source. I don’t need to spit out all the details of how it came to be I had those bitter feelings that day.
Writing allows me the opportunity to turn the question back on myself – turn to wonder as Parker Palmer prods us to do. What did the events of that day teach me about myself?