April (Snow) Showers
To begin with, you may be pleased to know that in this blog post I do not plan to use the terms ‘self-isolate’, ‘social-distancing’ and ‘strange times’, or the adjectives ‘extraordinary’ and ‘unprecedented’.
I plan to stay away from those expressions which seem to have hit our vocabulary in a way that has almost dumbed it down and seems to reflect a funnel vision of language and perspective. Perhaps it’s indicative of a kind of frozenness or stuckness we are all feeling in these strange times. (Oh shoot, I used it.)
I was feeling lack of perspective a few days ago, but in trying to stay positive, my friend and I were just having a conversation one evening, saying how grateful we were not to be moving into a winter season, and that spring was on its way. That was Thursday evening. When I opened the curtains on Friday morning I was met with this winter white landscape:
In the middle of doing a complete gearshift in my head and adjusting to this new reality, I also realised it probably would not last very long, so I pulled my snow boots out of the back of the closet where I had put them only a few weeks before, and made my way outside.
The recent bursts of spring were covered up with wet whiteness, and the cows just looked at me like ‘What the….?’
I shrugged my shoulders and walked on.
While beautiful, like the cows I wanted spring to come. I don’t want this, I thought. Not now.
But I kept walking, trying to beat away any negative thoughts and appreciate this for what it was that day - something different.
Saying that, it did not take long to really get lost in it and enjoy the beauty.
I noticed the prints of birds on the beach - oystercatchers which were probably just as confused as the cows and me, but they carried on with their morning ritual as usual.
Their footprints pointed me further on as though leading me to a surprise. It made me think of a piece from Annie Dillard’s ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’.
She writes: ‘…There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But - and this is the point - who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.’
I follow the bird foot arrows that lead me along the snowy, sandy beach.
Perhaps we are being taught to cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity right now - in order to notice the small gifts and free surprises that usually comprise our days, but somehow we end up missing in our plans and agendas.
The world is being forced to slow down, or even come to a complete halt. The earth has time to breathe and rest, as perhaps we are, and it is showing off what it can be and do, as it always does - we just don’t always see it.
We can view this time in lockdown as our freedom being taken away - and allow it to freeze us - or we can stop, be still, and notice what is actually there: the pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. I have learned that the pennies are everywhere, because much of my time this year has been in the city of Edinburgh and in the suburban world of St Catharines in Ontario. A bird, a leaf, a cloud, the moon shining in a puddle, a child laughing, such moments are everywhere. I am so grateful for the wintry world of Freswick -
- and the spring that is now returning with confidence. But I know (and I pray) that we can all find such 'pennies from heaven', as the old song goes, wherever we are.