We are currently in the midst of the few livable days of the year in Virginia. It’s glorious: not too hot, not too cold, and nary a mosquito in sight.
The garden has been waking up and the best part of every day this week (other than hammock time with Chloe and Gingersnap), has been the time I’ve spent outside yanking weeds out of my garden.
This morning my daughter was looking out the window at a whisky barrel planter on my deck, which holds a Golden Celebration rose. It’s a David Austin rose with extravagant, deep yellow blooms and an intoxicating scent of “wonderfully combined notes of Sauternes wine and strawberry.” At the moment, however, it just looks like bare, wiry stems.
“Oh, look Mama! There are beautiful flowers blooming in your planter,” my daughter exclaimed.
“Really?” I asked, trying to remember if I’d underplanted the rose with something else that I had forgotten about.
“Yes! They’re white, and lacy, and really pretty!”
I went over to the window to investigate…
Yep. Those are the same weeds I’ve been ruthlessly pulling out of my garden every morning. A good reminder that notions about what is beautiful and worthy are arbitrary constructs.
One Sunday morning this past December, my daughter was the lay reader for our church’s Zoom advent service. She read a passage from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1, Verses 26-38. This is the part of the Christmas story in which the angel Gabriel drops a bombshell on a very young girl, who is about to be married to a carpenter named Joseph: “Oh hey, Mary, you luckiest of girls! Guess what? You are about to give birth to the baby Jesus.”
“Ummm…Hang on. How can this be?” Mary asks, “since I’m a virgin?”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.”
My daughter is probably about the same age as Mary was when Gabriel revealed his startling message to her. As she read the passage, I tried to imagine the panic and terror she would feel if she were in Mary’s shoes. I imagined my own crushing dismay upon suddenly learning that my baby was about to have a baby.
The true miracle is Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s astonishing revelation: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”
During this year of unsettling, sometimes devastating news on the personal, national, and global level, I have not been able to muster anything even close to Mary’s preternatural aplomb when given the news that she is about to become an unwed teenage mother. Her radical attitude of trust and openness to the possibility of the miraculous seem too passive, too naive.
Later that same evening, I cajoled my husband and daughter into joining me on a late night adventure: “The Geminid Meteor Shower is supposed to be amazing this year. It’s supposed to be really easy to see a ton of shooting stars tonight.”
For years I’ve been dragging my husband and children out to fields in the middle of the night on futile quests to witness celestial phenomena. We’ve shivered for hours in the dark, craning our aching necks to the heavens. What almost always happens is, just as we settle in and turn our gaze skyward, a thick blanket of clouds rolls in to obscure the view. Based on past experience, my husband was rightfully skeptical, but he pulled on his coat and merely noted with a wry sigh, “You really have a thing for these kinds of events.”
We drove a little way from our house and stopped on a quiet country road that traverses gently undulating fields. As soon as we stepped out of the car, a shooting star streaked through the sky directly in front of us.
We set up our camping chairs on the side of the road and burrowed under a shared blanket to watch for more meteors in the deep silence. Suddenly, we heard a strange noise. Our eyes strained in the darkness as we tried to discern what was making the noise. We could barely make out the outline of a horse. She had walked through the field and right up to the fence line to be near us. That night we saw more shooting stars than I have ever seen in my entire life. Our breath curled and intermingled with the horse’s in the chilly night air as we stood watch together. I couldn’t say which was more miraculous: the celestial fireworks, or the presence of the horse, who matched our every cry of wonder with earthy, companionable nickering.
In the darkest of hours, may we be open to the possibility of miracles. May we recognize the miraculous in whatever shape it may take. And may we accept these gifts from the universe with open arms and open hearts.
Joy and woe are woven fine, A clothing for the soul divine; Under every grief and pine Runs a joy with silken twine. It is right it should be so; Man was made for joy and woe; And when this we rightly know, Safely through the world we go.
William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence” 1863
I started this post back in May, but never got around to finishing it. It’s a complete mystery to me how four months have simultaneously dragged on and flown by so quickly…
The silver lining of the pandemic has been the time I’ve been able to spend with my family and in my garden.
I’ve loved looking out the window to see my boys helping their sister keep up her goalie skills.
Hard to tie your own laces when you’re wearing goalie gloves.
If only this garden didn’t require an annual flesh sacrifice to oozing poison ivy rashes…
“I want to hold your hand…”
Gingersnap, the naughtiest pup on the face of the planet, has destroyed every single rug in the house, has eaten three pairs of earbuds and my son’s retainer, routinely makes unspeakable messes all over the house, and is generally a bumptious bully to our longsuffering older dog, Chloe.And yet…
she’s the apple of my eye, and I’m completely, irrationally besotted with her.
Chloe, on the other hand, is so over her.
This is how you graduate from high school in a pandemic:
Life goes on with birthday celebrations…
A trip to the beach…
It was fabulous at the Outer Banks…until I got viciously attacked by a stingray and had blood gushing like a geyser from my foot!
A trip to Sugar Hollow
Bearfence Mountain, Shenandoah National Park
Saying goodbye to our son was hard. He is so excited to be embarking upon his college career. We wish the circumstances weren’t so strange…
We’ve been learning my parents’ favorite old hymns, and making recordings for them…My mom ruined this particular song for me for all of eternity by saying she wanted us to sing it at her funeral. Thanks, Mom.
During the pandemic, my daughter launched a wildly successful matchmaking service…for snails. It happened quite by accident. She found her first snail, christened him Seamus, and created a bachelor’s pad for him. But social distancing was hard on Seamus. He seemed to be pining away. My daughter was on the verge of letting him go when we found a friend for him in the garden. Seamus the snail perked right up. Sparks flew. One thing led to another. And then this happened…
Historians have been encouraging students to keep a diary of their lives during the pandemic. When I suggested that my daughter start one, she gazed up at the ceiling for a few moments before replying in a voice riven with weariness: “What would I write? ‘Today I played NBA2K and scored 34 points for the Toronto Raptors.’ Enthralling material.”
Here’s a photo diary of what she’s ACTUALLY been up to…
Everyone’s been taking turns making dinner and hurting their brains trying to figure out how to accommodate this family’s radically different dietary preferences/requirements. Welcome to my world, people!!!
Playing board games with the family. We’ve all been getting routinely crushed by the triumphant-looking gentleman to the left.
Preparing for the apocalypse:
to get us through the tough times…
She has NOT been traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard to play soccer, but she HAS been participating in video chats and video compilations with her teammates.
(In case you’re wondering, that valuable roll of toilet paper was not sacrificed for the video).
Walking the pups
Playing badminton in the backyard
and wiffle ball…
Transforming Gingersnap into a future agility champ:
To be continued…tomorrow’s diary entry will reveal her biggest project to date.