There is a snap.pop sound, like that of an electrical current, coming from a grasshopper circling the rock gardens beneath the deck on which I sit. I wonder why I only hear its chitter when the sun shines unmediated by cloud or tree. A pair of lemon wedges float by, a butterfly of grace - another variety of wings, but the polar opposite in tone. And in the distance my children (my children!), Savannah Elizabeth and Peyton McKenna, moving something about our yard, stirring my mother heart once again with their distant laughter, then suddenly forced and nasal “thank yous”. They pass words like cards, each responding to what the other puts forth, able to change face in an instant. Suddenly I realize how many hours have passed since I have heard their voices. Everything in me smiles, in spite of their sisterly shenanigans.
These days away, my Momcation, I have been but 6 houses away from where I live – but across a busy street, up a steep and winding hill, around a corner and to the left back of a quiet, sprawling cul-de-sac. Were it not for the towering and dense pine forest, I would have been in full view to my family each day as I sat upon that back deck. But as things are, I may as well have been states away.
I have mostly painted here, or sketched, with some reading intermingled. Cooking would come next in the way of how external time has been spent. All doors open to the decks, I have spent hour upon hour in the fresh air and sunshine and now have a blushed pink nose with matching shoulders as my souvenir. Ive tried to photograph the clouds as they change throughout the day, hoping to reclaim their hues in watercolor image, but so far have fallen vastly short. Im quite sure the neighbors wondered what fantastic voyage was happening upon the back deck last night as my moans from the Chicken and Olives dish carried through the night air. Good Golly Miss Molly that stuff was outstanding!
But more than anything, what Ive experienced while here is that it didn’t feel all that different from my daily life. Sounds odd, Im sure (or maybe not since Im only 6 houses away). I guess what I mean is I realized that slowly, but intentionally, over all these 60 months of endless winter, I have built into my days time for prayer, reading and writing, time for tea in the trees and time for star gazing and wonder. Ive learned to count the pine needles and paint them one by one and to notice the pattern in rocks and wonder what all they have endured. I built these “moments of return” into my days so that I could remember God hourly, because I desperately needed Him, because, many days, I couldn’t go on without Him and because the needs of my family didn’t change or diminish just because I was internally despairing. These are not check boxes in how to experience God but rather touchpoints to remind me to worship and notice and learn, regardless. After all, when Job audibly complained, God didn’t suddenly fix it all, but rather turned Jobs eyes toward Creation. I have learned that in placing these moments and activities into my day, month after month and year after year, that I too am turned back to Creation and thus back toward the wonder and awe of a Living God whose Plan is in Place, and who is Sovereign over all. I have learned which moments I am most alive, most present, most filled and fulfilled. And likewise have learned where I am the opposite and how to deal with those fitful moments in a bit more Strength. In this long, long internal winter I have learned my own heart - its passion, quirks and aversions - where it leaps, where it sinks, where it feels safe or imperiled, and where it beats in steady contented rhythm. And in that learning, Ive learned a quiet worship of depending on the Lord in it all. I tell our girls all the time that practice is the hardest part of learning and I mean it wholeheartedly. Winter has made me practice…but it has taught me well.
Certainly I have had more time for these touchpoints these past days than my normal life allows, but there is a silent comfort in knowing that my real life isn’t so different from my retreat life – in a very pleasureful way. I kindof want to click my heels a bit when I realize that I am living a Sabbath of sorts now, everyday not just on Friday. This Momcation has shown me that! Imagine that! Somehow, through winters perpetual, the Lord has shown me how to live in His pleasures, His rest and to seek Him, look for Him, notice Him in every day. But…that is the story of winter, is it not? Living in Rest.
And so, as this alone time comes to a close, as I make my last celebratory meal and read my last few pleasureful pages, as I glide the brushes through water, then tint, then smear what my internal eyes see onto parchment, and even as this actual season of summer begins its final show, I am happy to see one more internal bud of new life, new learning, new practice. And like those first slants of light through the trees, those first days when parka can be traded for sweater, those first crocuses peeking through snow, Im so happy to finally be able to say (heel click) that all at once and everywhere, spring seems to be in the air.