Seeing the sun in the dark

Three weeks ago I was shoveling snow. This week I’m mowing the lawn between thunderstorms. The mower almost stalls as I plow through the bushy patches of fescue (or is it Kentucky Bluegrass? Dad, help!). I double back, then double back again to get the cut even. I skip the sections planted with ryegrass all together. I wonder if our various lawns (we have a front, back, and side lot) will fully recover this summer from last summer’s drought. John and I have this vision of planting native prairie grass on the half lot to the east (need to confer with our neighbors on that brilliant plan), but the (we’ll call it) fescue is as dense as ever. It’s the ryegrass that seems to have taken the biggest hit, though my kind and soft-spoken neighbor Denny tells me, “It’ll come back. Just give it time.”

I love Denny. He reminds me of my dad and my grandfather. He’s handy with about everything. He grows peppers and tomatoes (which he shares) in his garden. He fixes cars and mowers. He has an impact wrench. He works a nightshift factory job doing I still don’t know what. His snowblower looks twenty years old. One particularly cold morning after an 8 inch snowfall, he watched Jonah and I chip away at a particularly stubborn patch of ice from a previous storm and asked if he could clear the driveway for us. “Would you?” I asked, with undisguised relief. He didn’t say another word. Just did it. I have a card still waiting to be written for that act of kindness.

But for all the time I wait for spring, for all the watching I do and paying attention, it still surprises me. I watch the trees especially for the first buds. One day they’re bare, the next they’re green. Do they push out in the cover of night? Maybe they’re modest. I’m more comfortable exposing myself in the dark. They must be the same.

first green

This morning, after spending half the night in bed with John and Gabriel and half the night in bed with me, Jonah threw back the covers, hurtled himself out of bed and set off. We are of two camps in the Jantz-Estes household: the slow and groggy, somewhat grumpy wakers (that’d be G and me) and the bright eyed and bushy tailed (that’d be John and Jonah). About ten minutes after Jonah’s departure, John appeared asking where Jonah was. “I thought he was with you,” I muttered. Come to find out, Jonah had gone into his room (where G still slept) to Make His Bed.

Jonah has never, unprompted, made his bed. Ever. Of course he woke up his brother because next, he was going to make breakfast for them both. It was only logical. “Aren’t you proud of me?” he asked, as I lay there willing myself to get in the shower. G was thrilled. As Jonah got himself dressed, I went in search for G, who had disappeared (he’s been especially stealthy of late). He was standing at the doors of the refrigerator, thrilled. “Jonah gonna make me breakfast! We gonna make breakfast together!” By the time Jonah got downstairs, he had lost some of his motivation. He did get a yogurt out for G but left it on the counter without a spoon in the rush of getting himself a yogurt and a milk pill (lactase). G sat with anticipation at the table shouting “Need a spoon!” Never mind he didn’t have the yogurt.

But hey, it’s the thought.

I’m ready for some of that spring in myself. I’d take it in either form: the green buds and thick grass or the bounding gusto of my boys. As it is, I’m a little slow and sad. A little empty. I am feeling Lent in a very physical way. Yes, fasting is meant for emptying, but it’s an emptiness for filling—with prayer and the eucharist—and my desire for both are running low. I can be entirely too influenced by the way things feel and the way my feelings affect effort, or lack thereof.

If dreams say something about a soul, mine suggest a combination of living beyond my control and simultaneously mired in muck. Two nights ago I swung high on a swing—too high—as the chains twisted and spun me in large circles around the children swinging next to me on either side. I barely missed colliding with them. In another, I lost control of my car and skidded halfway through an immense field until I finally slid to a stop, sunk up to the top of my tires in mud. My priest from Kansas appeared at my window (from a Pizza Hut, no less, that was inexplicably situated in the middle of this field) and spoke to me through the crack in my window.

So while I don’t have much desire to go to church tonight, I will. Maybe that small act of faith is something. I will go, and I will see what God will do. Denny’s words play back to me: “It’ll come back. Just give it time.” I don’t know what “it” is. Joy, faith? I’m sure it has something to do with sunshine. As I sit here by the window, strange flickerings skim across my screen. At first I freak out a little, thinking my seven (eight? nine?) year old computer is finally on the fritz. But then I realize it’s the sun reflecting off the windshields of cars passing by. Crazy how I didn’t recognize the sun.

g stop with tongue      muscle man

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2 thoughts on “Seeing the sun in the dark

  1. Perhaps “it” is the energy perpetually drained from you by two lively young boys! Are you too hard on yourself? Your Lenten prayer seems to be one of longing. Fitting it seems, for someone away from home…

    • Perhaps. Though I don’t feel like I’m hard on myself at all, in most of the ways that are important. That balance of mercy and humility is tricky. I was much encouraged at liturgy last night, by this line: “As many as are of the faithful, again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord.” 95% of being “the faithful” is showing up and letting God work.

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