I believe that life is an up-hill walk. At first glance this statement may not cast me as an optimist, but please don’t judge me so quickly. I believe we were made for this up-hill walk of life. The further we go, the better the view. Sometimes the grade is easy, sometimes it’s steep. If we’re fortunate, we can get to the top of our climb and enjoy a good view and appreciation of our journey before we catch a passing cloud, or dissolve into the great blue sky, or however we want to view our departure from this lifetime.
It is fair, in my view, to say that life is a lot of work. I think most adults would agree. Much of the work of life can be enjoyable. There is a certain pleasure in the action of learning and growing, and, if we are so fortunate as to be occupied with works that we enjoy, there is satisfaction in a job well done. But no matter how we feel about it, we spend a lot of time with our hand on the plow, literally or figuratively. Sometimes it takes everything we’ve got to just stay on track and keep moving forward. Modern life hasn’t eased the way much. We have MORE of most everything, except time. (If you want to study on these thoughts about work and life, I would refer you to Wendell Berry’s essay collection What Are People For?.)
But there are moments when we are pulled from the groove – when circumstances call us to lift our heads from our works, and absorb the beauty at hand. Those beautiful moments are plateaus in the endless upward spiral climb.
In yoga class, the experience is open to everyone. Teachers, bank tellers, dentists, social workers, scientists, mothers, grandmothers, daughters (sometimes a father or a son, too), homesteaders, dancers, athletes, dreamers all alike come to get strong, and to relax. I watch them change in the course of an hour. The quality of their movements change. The sound of their breathing makes a comfortable rhythm with their movements and by the end of our time together, we are all ready to be still. The fidgeting fingers rest. The faces smooth of their efforts and worries. It’s a shared restfulness. Beautiful moment.
After such a winter as this last one, there are finally enough warm days in a row to draw the whole family into the garden. We pull up the row covering and examine the soil. We dig and clear and plant a bed of radishes and arugula. The water doesn’t feel so cold on our hands anymore, and the childrens’ winter tender feet are toughened on the old plants and new stones that the earth has burped up. I’m busy digging out a stand of Johnson grass that we neglected to eradicate last summer. It nearly took out the chives. I’m amazed at the depth and breadth of those strong, juicy roots. If only they were tasty! But then, look at the earthworms. They’re looking pretty good too. So alive.
I’m trying to maintain a knitting practice, even as the days grow longer and there’s more to do. I knit row after long row of dark grey, peppered with some lighter fuzz. It’s soft and pleasant. Then, after much contemplation, I decide to add a long stripe of red. I’ve looked at the skeins side by side, but it isn’t until the colors blend on the sticks that I really feel the effect of them together. Beautiful moment.
It’s been a long week of homeschooling. Neither of us has always been on our best behavior. Lulah asks if she can do a special project of her own, and I agree. She sets a stage, dons an old-timey costume, and gives a lesson to every doll and bear available in her self-made one room school house. She teaches addition facts that equal ten, some basic reading, and asks each pupil to write a verse of his or her own. Then she reads them aloud. A favorite: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
He’s been inside and outside, muddied a few pair of pants and managed to spread matchbox cars and legos across a large percentage of the floor. He has also threatened to eat his sister’s head off if she messes with his building project, even though he hasn’t worked on it for hours. I’ve avoided the crowded floor space by cooking dinner, and I’m almost done. “Hey Levon, it’s time to eat, time to put the legos away.” I pause after the announcement, waiting for resistance, I have to admit. “OK, Momma!” he hollers, and scoots over with a truck in each hand to load up the lego box. Beautiful moment.
The onions have sprouted and now they stand tall. As I water them, admiring their strength, I think about the mulched bed where they will be planted. I think of their roots growing down into the soil. I imagine their bulbs swelling in the lengthening spring days. I think of their thick green tops drying down in the summer, the joy of stringing them up for the winter, the smell of sizzling onions on the way to seasoning a curry.
There are more beautiful moments to come.