Dinner is in the oven, almost ready. Fairy lights twinkle on the neighbors’ bushes in the blue light of dusk. From where I sit I see sewing supplies from my most recent project taking up one end of the dining room table and opened mail and papers on the other end and piles of books in the living room, unread as yet. It is warm and light here, messy and cozy.
I would like also to be like this, a little messy but cozy and in my essence warm and light.
When the Puritans celebrated the first Thanksgiving they had far less than many of us do. They had traveled over the wide sea, had survived their first harsh winter in this land and had managed with the help of the Native Americans to have a successful harvest. Fifty three of the original band of one hundred two Puritans had survived the year since leaving Europe.
Each member of that fifty three must have grieved the loss of family and friends. Their diet was generally poor and unpredictable, their houses were one room dark drafty cabins in which fire was the only source of warmth and light. That same fire could easily burn down a cabin destroying months of labor with one spark. Packs of wolves picked off sheep and enjoyed an occasional colonist for dessert. Serious illness was a death sentence; pregnancy was often tantamount to a death sentence as well. Because there was no communally accepted established system of laws English colonists, Native Americans, adventurers and fortune seekers from Spain, France and Holland had no protection from each other.
In a dark world, good things are precious few and are prized all the more for their rarity. Perhaps what the Pilgrims were giving thanks for most of all was the resilience of spirit that allowed them to recognize what was good and to trust that life would get better.
Today I smelled the onset of winter, a crisp, damp, cool breeze not patting but slipping its fingers around my bare ankles. Trees have closed for business. Only their last fragments of finery skitter away in the dusk. Car tires whoosh by waiting for the different sound of snow crunch beneath them, the crunch that happens when the snow is crusted or the whispered squeakier crunch of a fluffy snow. Darkness comes early these days, but soon, soon a night will come when the sky is lightened by reflected moonshine on new fallen white.
Winter is not barren but stark.
Not every action that springs from envy is bad. For instance, I envied my friend Susan’s easy generosity and sweetness. I didn’t just admire it, I wished I was that kind of person.
Sometimes envy is the spur we need to work hard, to build something new and in the process to create not the image of what we envied to begin with but a new paradigm.
What is it with trust, anyway? If you type it into Google you get an entry on trust law which is of course a system designed to address a situation when trust has been broken. Under that, you find a Wikipedia entry which first defines trust as “reliance on another person or entity” and then immediately thereafter defines misplaced trust. Third is a reference to a movie called Trust which is clearly about someone who does not deserve trust.
How sad that the concept of trust is so ephemeral that it is defined more by its absence or betrayal than by its nature.
I have a shard of pottery that is very old, an unevenly proportioned quadrilateral, about 3/8 of an inch thick, curved, with two stripes. I like to look at it now and again, to hold it in my hand. Life could not have been easy back in that potter’s day. so I wonder as I hold that shard what stirred the potter to go to the extra effort of putting those decorative stripes on it.
We all do this. We all occasionally have a yearning to do something beyond the call of duty. For some of us, that yearning results in extra chocolate chips in this week’s batch of cookies. For others, the result is an extra fearsome gargoyle face on a medieval cathedral, an imaginatively designed bridge, a symphony or even an especially clean bathroom at a highway rest stop.
It doesn’t really matter whether the stripes on this particular pot shard came from a moment of exuberance, I will certainly never know. But for a time, when the clay warms in my hand I think about that hand long ago that touched it too.
A letter in your mailbox. Thick textured envelope with a certain important heft. Hand addressed with the scrawl of someone you admire, perhaps love. The letter itself, line after line where the heel of a hand leaned firmly on the desk, the thumb and forefinger pressed either gently or tightly together to hold the pen. The middle finger has a callous bump from years of letter writing and that callous holds the indentation of the pen briefly when the writer lays down the pen to fold the sheets of paper. First the bottom folds up, then the top down, just so. The top intentionally does not meet the first fold. There is a gap of perhaps half an inch to allow you to open the letter without fumbling.
Then the letter is slipped into the envelope, perhaps smoothly or perhaps it catches on the corner fold of the envelope before the flap can close. The sender licks the strip of glue. It tastes vaguely sweet. The taste lingers. One must press down quickly and hold the flap in place so that the glue will not dry before sticking shut. Then the stamp – again that sweet taste. Although nowadays the stamps stick of themselves and do not require that final kiss.
Email can’t compare.