This week has been the sort of weather roller coaster that shows you what this world is capable of. All the ice finally melted away, and our bodies are quickly forgetting the muscle memory it takes to navigate slippery sidewalks. I got to use my general shoes of choice which are very light, but also very easy to get wet. My newer goretex hiking boots are great at keeping my feet warm and dry, but compared to my normal shoes (designed to make you feel more like you’re barefoot), I felt like I was wearing bricks. The warmer weather gave me this feeling that I had been unshackled and I was free again to walk the sidewalk the way God intended it (if he intended us to wear rubber and synthetic fabric on our shoes while walking thick slabs of concrete).
I’ve even noticed a change in the birds with the warm-up. All the robins I saw during the cold weather were incredibly fat, and I wondered if it was due to super-surge of earthworms this winter or if they somehow puffed themselves up in the cold to stay warm. Yesterday, I looked out my window into the 60 degree morning and saw several skinny robins pulling earthworms out of my yard.
This change in the temperatures offers hope for those downtrodden by the constant cold. There’s something about walking out in sunshine and shedding your layers, showing more of yourself to the world. It’s a very free experience, and generally those first moments of freedom are about the best times I can imagine. It reminds me of the days I spent in a boring class or a meeting that dragged on and we talked and talked about some stupid issue that didn’t matter and still didn’t resolve it by the end. These meetings where everyone feels important because they are sitting at the table of a meeting, and we’re all scared to acknowledge that we might not be as good at what we’re doing as we all hope we will be. So we talk and talk and talk and feel really good about ourselves and leave, having made no fundamental changes about anything that needs help. So many meetings, so much unfulfilled potential. I think of that feeling, walking out the door, the air is still crisp, slightly cold, but that sun feels like it’s browning your face. You hear birds, doing their important work. You feel the textures of the different grounds under your feet: cement, gravel, grass, dirt. I feel like I’ve been healed walking out those doors, like my life has been given back to me and I’ve been told, “Run. Run now and never come back. Don’t wonder. Don’t ask yourself what you should do. Let your body tell you. Go to the place that is calling to you. Don’t worry why you are drawn to it. You will know in time. You know what is behind you. There is more for you to find out.”
Ah, these temperatures, this sun give me that free feeling. This hope, though, is only part of the story. The skies unloaded on us every time I was just about to go out and rake the leaves and shred them to mulch our trees. Going out, I had to put my heavy shoes on again or be ready to deal with wet feet for the rest of the day. Because it is almost warm, but not quite, the heat comes on less frequently in the house, which makes the house feel colder than normal. We can feel the rain pooled up all around, because the ground has soaked up all it can stand and there is more. This heaviness can be tiring. If you let it, it can chain you to the couch or the bed. It’s easy to doubt sometimes that there might be more bad than good out there, that we’re fighting a losing battle, when the world turns around and drenches us with wet and cold after the tease of one nice day.
I got a chance to visit my good friend, Russell, this week, visiting him at his new home, meeting his wife and his dog. Russell is a camp person, and we got close taking classes together and attending camp leader gatherings. In the past year, I’ve left my camp to go after a lot of the things I had put on hold. Russell has left the camp he started in and taken a Director job at Cedarcrest, near Nashville. He showed me around the camp, and it is beautiful, with limestone rock faces, a small but strong stream running from the hills, a lake, forest and fields. Russell is going to be building the camp from the ground up. It’s an exciting time to witness. I think a lot about witnessing the beginning of something that you know is going to grow. Watching the sapling sprout and push its way out of the leaf litter, the foundation and first layer of brick in a building you know you will inhabit. What will these things see? What will be shared under their arms?
But, we all know there is work to be done, hard frustrating work. We know there will be set-backs, steps in the wrong direction. Sometimes the sapling doesn’t get sun, sometimes we run out of money, sometimes we question the decisions that originally gave us so much joy. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we know how things will go. It’s usually better, as we sit at the table if we just stop bluffing and tell everyone we have doubts. These silly meetings. These silly ways we try to act like the way we present ourselves will do anything to rescue us when it comes down to it. Look in my eyes. I’m no more sure of myself than you are. But, there is this hope in me. There is this love inside me that longs to run free and do what my body is longing to do. I bet you feel that too. I bet you breath deep when it hits you too.
Last night, sitting around the table with good friends and a slightly anxious golden lab, we heard the wind blow all around us. We knew the forecast. We knew it was to rain at 6pm, then we might have winds as high as 70 miles per hour by 8pm. The wind howled outside and lightening flashed, making every window look like a strobe light. Russell went upstairs to get the lantern out, just in case. I did not know what we might be called to do that night. Would we finish out the evening conversing over good food and drink, like we had begun? Would we find ourselves huddled together in the most stable room in the house in darkness, promising to protect each other? In these days, hope must keep company with unknowing. We must live with them both and love them both despite their weakness, because they are guests in our home. They both have much to tell us. In that moment, in their kitchen, sharing our lives with each other it was well with me whatever would happen next. I was happy then, and happiness can make us unreasonably brave.