Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When It Rains, It Snows

The geese warned me last night: snow's coming! At that point, the forecasts I was reading just called for rain all week. But the skeins of geese flying high in the evening sky, honking their long-distance travelling song, clued me in. Not too many of them, and not many today: I think the snowy weather will soon pass, and we'll have another spell of mild weather.

No accumulation of snow yet; it's too warm. It was beautiful driving the bus in it today: big wet clumpy flakes thick in the air, like a cartoon. At night, with them plummeting wetly onto dark pavement, I was reminded of the importance of focus. When I looked at the flakes swirling towards the windshield, with a short-range focus, I was suddenly blind to the roads and traffic around me--a dangerous perspective. All I could see was the whiteness, even though it was of little real substance--all day we had only a little more than 1/2 inch of precipitation. Coming at me at frightening speed, it was entirely dizzying.

A different kind of snowblind.

Alarmed at being briefly hypnotized (even though I was safely at a l-o-n-g stoplight), I blinked and shook my head, and refocused on the darkness beyond the tumbling snow. When I focused on the background, the snow became transparent again, faded from view, and I could plainly see the roads and traffic again--the things that were of real substance.

That's a lot like other things in life. When everything comes "thick and fast and more at last" (is that Lewis Carroll?), it's easy to get caught up in focusing on the little temporary "crises" hurtling at me, rather than the long-term, important things that will be there through thick and thin.

I found myself getting grumpier and grumpier this evening.

Well, it WAS late and I got little sleep last night. I stayed up late preparing my written comments on the Northeast Sector Plan which is being drafted by the Lawrence/Douglas County Planning Department with input from the community (http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/draft_plans).

With Toss gone, it was a good time to catch up on cleaning. Threw in a load of wash (rugs), tackled the dust bunnies in the entry way with broom, vacuum and mop...oh, that little rug in the basement would work well here...I go down to get it just in time to hear the sound of water cascading from the washing machine drain, drenching the washer which is just days back in service after the motor board went out last week (about $300 all told). Stray water is a known enemy of this expensive part. Because the drain was backing up before it went out, I called the drain cleaner first, then the appliance repair guy. Now all of that seems to no avail. Which means it's probably time to dig up the septic tank...ugh.

Big bills, but small stuff in the grand scheme of things. I unplug the sump pump, shut off the washer, turn off the light, and walk away. Nothing to be done tonight.

Grumpier and grumpier. I try to sweep under the computer table. You would think all those snake-like cords would eat the dust bunnies, but no. They shelter the dust bunnies. Suddenly I despise electrical cords as much as I do garden hoses. Grumpy, grumpy. One of those times I'm really grateful to live essentially alone.

Talking with Mom and Dad earlier, they mention attending a memorial at their church for someone barely older than me, who was a somewhat removed role model for me...an environmental activist credited with some significant feats of conservation in the state. Someone who made a lasting difference for many, many species. I reminded them of another mentor of mine, someone who pushed me to grow and develop new skills as a shy high school junior, who died this summer. The obituaries are vague, of course, but it is clear that each took her own life.

And suddenly I realize--this is the source of my grumpiness. In the midst of little frustrations-- not being able to control a handful of computer cords, seeing my washing machine/drain repairs all to naught--reflecting on the lives of these strong, courageous women whom I personally knew for many years, and knowing that at some point they decided it just wasn't worth it any more. What does that mean for me, just a few years younger than they?

I can imagine something like that if I were ill to the point of no reasonable hope for meaningful recovery. But these creative, dynamic women were still creating, still active, still making meaningful contributions to their communities.

We can never stand in another's shoes and know what they were thinking or feeling. But in this moment, I remember my experience with the falling snow. If I focus on the little, insignificant things coming at me thick and fast, I will lose my sense of perspective, and I will be overwhelmed...and I could come to a point where it seemed just too difficult and pointless to continue.

So I renew my resolve to keep my focus on the big, important things beyond the little daily burdens of plumbing and appliances and phone companies that keep billing me for services I didn't order.

The important things are, I think, these: God, and my faith in Him; my family and friends, and my relationships with them; the farm, and my relationship with its Community of Life.

But these things can come thick and fast too. I tiptoe away from the edges of the the thoughts, "What if they decided that all this ground around me can be developed into industrial parks and tract houses?" "What if they annex the farm?" That way lies madness.

Comfort comes in a quote someone posted on a listserv:

"Not one of us will live long enough to see a fraction of the difference we make, but it is essential that we pursue our ideals anyway. Many of the first Quakers never saw freedom of religion come to England. Most of the original suffragists never got to vote. The murdered civil rights workers did not get to see racial tensions ease. Few idealists live long enough to see their dreams made real, and yet their influence lives after them, and their dreams do, sometimes, come true for others."

— Kate Maloy in A Stone Bridge North

I have to look not just beyond the falling snowflakes, but beyond the traffic as well, to the larger community of which the traffic is but one manifestation. The traffic appears to me as a different hypnotizing flow, one that has more substance than snow, but is equally detached from me. Yet from within itself, it is far more than a river of cars. It is others like me, working, dreaming, planning supper, meeting loved ones. And I must always remember, I am part of it. What I do as a driver affects the flow of the traffic, and that affects the lives of each fellow member in ways I will never, ever know.

Faith is knowing that it is so, even though I will never, ever know. Faith is my lifeline into the future, beyond myself.


Judielaine said...

A google search for "thick and fast and more at last" only turns up here. It doesn't sound like Lewis Carol's Alice books (public domain in US, thus full text can be found online all sorts of places). Not your own thoughts?

I too was grumpy last night, hitting stumbling blocks during the day, feeling the pressure of being out two days last week due to health issues and out for two weeks for the holidays coming up. Grumpy, for me, is better than the paralysis that has hit me for decades when things go "wrong."

I'm glad you shook your funk and hope things go beautifully for you today. As always, thanks for sharing your life with us!

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