It was almost tangible, the first breath of spring. Almost. Yet Friday morning arrived dressed in a white coat draped over the thick one from the day before. Still winter then. Grumbling ensued. We’ve all had enough of shoveling, enough slipping, and wiping out. I miss warmth and sunny green days too, but over the years, through ups and downs, I’ve learned this one thing: make the most of the day you have. Snowy or not, it only comes once.
So I greeted the day the way I do every day: pup and I hit the trails. We’ve walked those trails at length, yet the feeling of being there is as crisp and fresh as the day itself. There’s a new song every day, the cacophony of life sounds jumping out of nowhere one second only to disappear the next. As if you’re witnessing the world breathing.
We made it up to the plateau. There was no sky; all was white, trees growing on the ground as they did in the sky. So much beauty it melts thoughts into one: gratefulness.
For our natural world that offers so much, every day, no matter how snowy. For the gift of seeing it all and have time stop for a bit, for that simple yet joyous feeling of walking through fresh snow and having yield under your feet, for the sweet memories of summers past, now present as graceful dry grasses balancing small clumps of snow on their heads. There’s no room to grumble here. There are no sidewalks to shovel, or patches of ice to slip on… Here you can be breathing winter in and letting it kiss your cheeks, and your steps are steady. No need to argue with it. For even a few minutes, you can be away from all that seems bothersome.
There were deer and coyote tracks and the pup’s nose was hard at work sniffing every swift air current that danced around its nose carrying bouquets of smells. Not to me. The scent world is mostly available to pups and their powerful noses. More to wonder at. More to be grateful for.
Somewhat reluctantly, we headed home, to warmth and boys waking up. Come midday, the sun pokes his face through clouds and sprinkles brightness all over. I take the boys and pup to the wonder place that stole my heart in early morning. ‘You got to see, it’s so beautiful it brings you to tears…’. Faces squint wrestling with sunshine, cheeks are red as we hike, and slippery downhills cause cascades of laughter as we try to avoid wipe-outs. Time together becomes yet another story unfolding on a bright winter day when we forgot to miss spring.
The evening brings the sad news of a dear friend’s passing. During his life, Richard Wagamese carried much grace and much pain, and most of all courage to balance both as he went on. He acknowledged his own lack of gracefulness at times, and that brought forth others’ courage to acknowledge theirs. He had an infectious laughter over the silliest of things that would come up in a conversation, and he had an immense love for music. He shared both heartfully.
He had gratefulness, but his demons cared for no such things. Life had not been kind to him and that left marks that showed. They showed in how he told not only his own story, but stories of old that would have you sit and listen. He drummed those stories and he talked of how they remind you of your mother’s heartbeat in the womb, if only you closed your eyes long enough to be able to listen and feel.
Gratefulness becomes the ribbon I now tie all those memories together.
There’s no room for grumbling in a day that reminds of so much. Reminds of life, of its increments of wonder we can choose to open our hearts to or let them fall on the ground only to step on them and say things should be better if we are to be grateful. It reminds of the short time we have to make it all count.
On a day when you see overwhelming beauty in snow-clad old pines, when children’s belly laughs and silly jokes add more precious pages to your life book, when you find yourself broken-hearted and in tears upon losing a friend… it all melts and becomes but ink in which you dip your pen in to keep on writing. Written words or not, relating our stories as we go, with gratefulness, sorrow, and a never-ending sense of wonder, that might just take away what we perceive as ugly bits.
Life is never about the dark clouds that crowd overhead every now and then, but about the light that stubbornly pushes its way through no matter what. Because it does.
Rest in peace, Richard, the stories will keep on rolling. Gratefulness abounds.
‘Oh, how many travelers get weary
Bearing both their burdens and their scars,
Don’t you think they’d love to start all over
And fly like eagles
Out among the stars…’ (Johnny Cash, Out Among The Stars)