New Year's Evolution
The string of holidays tumbling one right after the other like puppies down a hill is over. The unexpected magic of a new year snowfall has melted and left behind thousands of digital photos, but little else. The joie de football created by high hopes and provincialism has faded with the disappointing scores.
So what now? What is going to keep me alive through the dead of winter – when the last dangling hydrangea leaves are slimy and brown, when the rain has left ruts dried into deep ditches, hard shards of clay that crunch beneath my feet like glass, when the wind rattles the trees, the windows, and even my bones?
There is not much I like about this season. Homemade soup, Russian tea, high school basketball. That’s about it. I am not much of one for the whole curling up with a book and a blanket thing or the curling up with Netflix and a blanket thing or, really, curling up at all. It gives me a headache to hunch my shoulders, to curve my spine.
So, instead of turning up the heat and closing the shades, opening a bag of Oreos and grabbing the remote control, I go outside. Make myself go outside. Force myself to face down the chill and the wind. I turn myself into a clothing lasagna. Cuddl Duds and tights and socks, Cuddl Duds and undershirt and sweatshirt, coat and gloves and earmuffs. I cross the threshold, cross the porch, and walk.
Into the wind and away from the place where the sun is setting in bleached-out colors, I don’t see much worth noting. There is no animal movement. Not even the birds. The fields are all cut over. The landscape is one wide swath of beige.
What now? The question returns, an uninvited companion, and I have no idea to whom I am directing the inquiry – Myself? God? The trees that arc over my head like flying buttresses? I do know it is not just a new year’s resolution-type question. I do know that it’s not about the next hour or day or week. I know that what I am asking has nothing to do with what is written on my calendar and everything to do with what is written on my heart.
And what might that be? If I believe all the Bible verses given to me for memorization by Sunday School teachers over the year, there is a great deal of scripture written there, but I suspect there is something more, something written in my own hand. If I am to move through this cold and dark season with any purpose, any hope of survival, I have to know what it says. Right this minute I’m not sure.
Behind me the sun has set quickly, the pale lavender sky melting like butter on toast. Movement is keeping me warmer than I’d have thought when I started out, but my toes are beginning to tingle. The interminable stream of interrogatory sentences is beginning to slow, along with my breath. Time to go home.
Unpeeled of all the layers, I warm up walking through the house as I check my phone. I notice a friend’s new Facebook profile photo in which he is sporting a sweatshirt from his alma mater. It takes me a moment to realize that the photo was taken in a mirror and “Georgia” is written backwards across his chest. Readable, but disorienting.
I pause and close my eyes, aware suddenly that there is a discovery to be had somewhere amid the pixels and computer code. Could it be that I have just been disoriented, like a hiker caught in an avalanche? That what is written on my heart, the instructions that are meant to get me from here to there, are still readable and still exactly the same as they have always been? That I can trust my ability to see what is true despite its appearing to be the mirror opposite?
Eyes open, I look around. There is a wall of books. There is a painting of the marsh on Saint Simons. There is a photo of me holding my great-nephew. With every turn of my head the answer grows clearer.
What now? This. This breath. This moment. This life.