The Choices We Make During Lent
It's hard to believe that just a few days ago, I was staring out into the frozen world around me, snow piled high, with more coming down. I'd just received the notice that we were going to have to boil our water, only to moments later have the water shut off.
We were trying to conserve energy and the house was dark except for the flickering of the fireplace, and I was bundled up because I turned our heat down to 67 degrees, which was cozy compared to the single-digit temperatures outside.
Right this second, I am sitting outside on a screened-in porch in Florida. I'm wearing shorts. The sky is blue and the sun is shining warmly on the flowers that are blooming on a tree just outside. I've taken like four showers in the last two days to make up for the days I went without one last week.
The whole experience kind of shook me, though.
I wrote a bit about it last week--reflections on loss, grief, and even death to a certain extent. Winter can do that to you--bend your mind toward the impermanence of things, cover your outlook in a grey shroud of frigid air, and dead branches, shriveled plants, and dormant grass.
And then the sun comes out, the ice melts, the air becomes warm and filled with the scent of Spring. And you forget, at least a little, about what it felt like for things to be frozen and hopeless.
I stepped outside today to walk our dog and turned my face to the sun and just stood there with my eyes closed. I thought about the rhythm of things---about dying and rising, frozenness and verdancy. It feels good to be warm again and to realize that the frozenness doesn't last forever.
Sometimes I wish I could feel that way about all of the things I've lost. I wish I could take all the griefs that I've endured during the frozen seasons, and simply turn my face to the sun and just let the warmth wash it all away.
I know that it's a choice, but it's one that is much harder to make than it might seem---at least for ourselves. We always see so clearly how everyone else needs to move on from loss, and discover joy once again, but when it comes to our own losses... we are often unable to release them.
They are like old friends, who suck up all of the warmth and sunshine, but whom we can't relinquish for some mad reason. And so we live in dread of what comes next. We live in dread that the sun won't ever shine again, that we won't ever see the signs of Spring---even as we cling tightly to the very things that bring a perpetual Winter.
I read this poem by Billy Collins not too long ago, and I jotted it down until I could find a way to share it:
The waiter was dressed in black
And wore a hood.
He raised his pencil over his order pad.
And later when he came back
To ask if we were finished,
We shook our heads no,
Our forks trembling over our empty plates.