Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To Everything There Is A Season

some boots
the halls,
the shirts and jackets
smothered the sofa
the dirty dishes and crumbs
conquered the

the garbage
managed to

the trash can
by hiding in plain sight.

When I was little, I was required to clean my room at least once a week. When I had hidden the last sock under my bed, I would call mama up to see. I was always disappointed when she used her x-ray vision, and declared, “Clean this mess up, and make it Mama Clean.” By college my housekeeping was more honest. Instead of hiding clothes under my bed, I piled them on every available surface. My room looked like a collision between a garbage truck and a department store. Then I got a job and a house of my own. My standards improved. I hid my dilapidated sofa under a pretty bedspread and artfully covered the stains on my Salvation Army rugs with hassocks. I rearranged furniture weekly and picked flowers to distract the eye from the stains on the table cloth.

By the time Justin and Scott entered my life, I was able to hire the prestigious decorators Tonka and Little Tike. They specialized in bright plastic toys. As the boys got older I used Nike and Converse for most of my floor treatments and Cabelas and Aeropostale did the slipcovers on my chairs. I even had specialists in large knick-knacks: Remington and Winchester.

Now that Justin has moved into his own house to fight his own dust wars, and Scott is away at college most of the year where everyone is having too much fun to worry about dust, I have discovered my inner neat freak. I find myself washing dishes before I go to bed and straightening the sofa pillows when I leave the room. For the first time in eighteen years, my Christmas decorating did not require bringing out the shovel and broom before I could bring out the tree and presents.

It’s now, four days after Christmas, and most of my friends have already put away their Christmas decorations. I’m not ready for that, yet. My house is full of clutter and it is evident that a child lives here again. I’ll make it Mama Clean next year. And then clean it each night before bed as I wait expectantly for the day that a child’s coat draped over a chair signifies that once again my house is full of all that really matters to a mother’s heart.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I am a Pioneer Woman. The snow has made my driveway impassable and the only way out is on foot. (My son Scott says I can only be a Pioneer Woman if it’s uphill both ways.) Over twenty inches of snow on the ground makes it work to walk anywhere. It is fun to imagine what it might have been like to live long ago, and realize how lucky I am to live in an age of motors and snow plows. We were snowbound, but only for a day.

This snow was much anticipated. Friends on Facebook were all atwitter and hopeful for huge amounts. Then when the final totals were in, they were dismayed and uncomfortable (well, not the ones with a good stock of liquor, or a good sense of fun.) Farmers like snow if there is six inches or less. They call it poor man’s fertilizer. But, over six inches means every gate needs to be shoveled out, and sometimes it’s hard to get feed to all the animals. We had sheep up on a fairly steep hill and couldn’t get through the three foot drifts to feed them until a neighbor plowed us a path.

Snow is magical. It erases the brown doldrums of winter and replaces them with hope. The kind of hope I learned about on my thirteenth birthday.

As my birthday approached, I decided I wanted snow. I wanted school to be canceled. I wanted to spend the day napping and reading in bed. I wanted to go sleigh riding with my four closest friends, and then come back to my house, for cake and ice-cream.

So, three months before the big day, I started adding these words to my bedtime prayers: “…please God, if it’s not too much trouble, could You bring me some snow for my birthday?” I prayed faithfully and I was sure that God would answer.

As my birthday approached, I scanned the newspapers and listened to the radio each night for some indication that God had heard me. Forecasters babbled about blue skies for the remaining shopping days before Christmas, so I continued to pray.

On the morning of my birthday, I woke and pulled back the curtains to reveal a bright blue sky. I felt betrayed. I slumped downstairs and even my mom’s reminder about my birthday party couldn’t lift the cloud. Although the list of guests included Stuart and Fred, two boys I had deep crushes on, I still wanted snow. God had let me down.

There were no windows in my school except for the ones on the outside doors, so eventually I stopped pouting and began to daydream. Then, at about nine that morning I picked up some vibrations from classmates who had managed visits to the restroom. It was beginning to look really wintry outside. By ten o’clock, the snow was dumping and the principal announced over the loudspeaker that school would be letting out in an hour.

“YESSSS!” God had come through.

I rode the bus home on a spiritual high. God was a loving God and a God of good things. My birthday dreams were about to become a reality.

The snow fell at an alarming rate, obliterating trees and bushes faster than you could say “Jack Frost.” After jumping down from the bus steps into the inviting powder, I trudged home in wet tennis shoes and began to think about my friends who all needed their parents to DRIVE them to my house for my party. In my prayers I had forgotten to mention a specific amount of snow. At this rate, the snow would be a foot deep by supper time, traffic would come to a complete standstill, and my party would be cancelled.

I climbed the stairs to my bedroom and plopped on my bed to watch the snow cascade from the sky. At precisely three o’clock the last flake spiraled to the ground and the storm ended. By seven the roads were clear enough for all of my friends (including Stuart and Fred) to ride to my house for a caroling party in the snow.

When I watch it snow, I am reminded of how gently and graciously God answered the prayers of one awkward teenager, who wanted nothing more than a little magic on her birthday and an assurance that her Sunday School teacher was right.

“God’s eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Spider Eyes and Other Unexpected Gifts

There’s something magical about the first snow of the season. I pull on a pair of Muck boots and stride into a world that’s slowly becoming a fairy land. Duke pup runs after me and the snow is just deep enough to make him look like a fish surfing the waves. We walk over to the edge of the woods, and while he’s snuffling and snorting his way through every drift, I inspect the tracks that squirrels and a lone fox have left. Foxes walk by placing their back feet exactly where their front feet have trod. This creates a single line of tracks that runs across the snow like a neat row of stitches. Finding these tracks is an unexpected gift. Nature is constantly dishing up some wonderful surprises.

For example:
One foggy night I saw spider eyes reflected in the headlights of my car. At first I didn’t know what I was seeing. My headlights kept picking up small green sparks on the damp road. When curiosity got the better of me, I pulled over and the beam of my flashlight illuminated hundreds of hairy wolf spiders scuttling back and forth. Later I read that, although a wolf spider has eight eyes, only the two largest reflect light. I never did figure out why so many spiders were out dancing a hoe-down on the wet pavement.

Another time, on a damp spring morning, I spotted a large group of earthworms mating on the berm. Somehow, over two hundred earthworms had signaled to each other that it was time to stretch out of their holes. They were lying cheek to cheek (or more scientifically, clitellum to clitellum) in the dew spangled grass. When I looked it up, I discovered that earthworms are attracted to the vibrations of other worms nearby. All I can say is that there must have been an amazing worm party going on.

Since I moved to the mountains I have witnessed an eagle plummeting from the sky to catch a fish, a praying mantis eating her mate (head-first!) and a monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. I have discovered turtle eggs buried in a warm rock nest, a dead otter washed up in a flood, and an owl pellet at the base of a hollow tree. I have collections of heart-shaped rocks, turtle-shaped rocks, screw-shaped fossils(crinoids) and cone-shaped fossils (porifera). I own a coyote skull and a complete cow skull. And, I am jealous of my husband who once saw a golden eagle snatch a rabbit right out from under the noses of his beagles.

These are my treasures. But, I still have a long list of things I hope to see. I want to watch an eagle catch a rabbit. I want to discover a hummingbird’s nest. I’d like to find a fossilized leaf imprint, and collect the complete skeleton of some small animal. It is wonderful to have so many things to look forward to. This is indeed a rich world in which I live.