How We Got to This Moment

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E. has another cold so there’s the whole barfing/not much sleeping/crying/nebulizing routine going on around here. The sun rises and does the thing it always does, brightening the sky and everything else. And no matter what happens in those dim hours between ten and six a.m., I get up for the day, just like I always do.

During these moments, when it also seems like the bad news of the world has no end, I have been remembering to look up at the maples. And no matter what’s happening, trees make it better.

You know what else makes it better: my neighbor Karen. She’s a visual artist/gardener/former ICU nurse. That’s three different types of amazing rolled into one.

Some people might splurge on a cruise to Alaska, if they can swing it, or have a meal at a nice restaurant in town. But for her 70th birthday, Karen bought a whole wheelbarrow full of bulbs— hyacinth, lilies, allium, tulips and daffodils. And she decided to plant these perennials for her neighbors and friends.

She explained to me, “I’m lucky that I’ve made it this far. I know so many people who haven’t”. Then, without any fanfare, she got to planting. Karen organized a curved border along our front yard with handfuls of bulbs.

So now, even though our first frost hit just a few days ago, I cannot wait until spring. Come April, those blooms will blow kisses of color beneath the trees like we are living in a fairy forest.

We are so lucky. I don’t ever want to forget that, even though, of course, I do. Especially when it’s still dark and there’s a toddler wailing nearly every hour.

But anyway, and more importantly, I wish the whole world was more like Karen. Instead of semi-automatic rounds fired into strangers, we’d have spontaneous gardening sessions with our neighbors. I’d never have to worry about the people that I love being murdered during math class or at Lollapalooza; we could shovel dirt together and steward something gorgeous.

I’ve gotten to meet many giving, gracious souls through our little E.’s struggles. People who care for the sick, who care for the earth. People who live like yes, this is what it’s all about. Not me or you or mine or yours. But we, us.

If not for E. and the insufferable nights, we never would have moved out here to the woods or met these beautiful humans. And then I wouldn’t be writing this right now. Maybe instead I would be running around Lake Harriet, maybe I would be cleaning my car (because it could really use it, but generally I’ve got better things to do). I hope I’d be writing about something that matters deeply, like fighting racism or challenging corporate interests in Congress. Who knows what I’d be doing.

I can easily trip out about all of the choices that lead up to a moment, but it is wild, right? How one thing leads to another that shapes a day or a week or maybe even your whole life? How an excruciating night—a night where you want to just give up already—becomes a morning that you never knew you would love quite as much as you actually do?

I don’t know why or how we got to this place in time, and I don’t know how to get anywhere else. Today I’m going to watch the rain heap down on top of those bulbs, and look up at the sky to say thank you, more than once. Because we could be anywhere, and the nights could be much longer. Yet we are here. And we’ve made it this far.

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