Teri Orr: Snap dragons or snap humans blooming…
It is (almost) always well-meaning … I know — because for years I was that person. I would see someone at a party who I hadn’t seen for awhile and I knew they were going through a tricky/sticky situation and I would ask the question — sincerely I thought — how is your … complication … going?
Until I asked one night — someone I knew well. I thought I asked — almost dispassionately how things were … and Rick snapped.
What the hell kind of question is that? Would you ask — how’s your remodel going? How’s your divorce moving along? Is the chemo working? I looked around to see if everyone else could hear him. My question was about his work life — which was complicated but just work — however it clearly felt very raw and sensitive to him.
I realized the extent this winter had been hard on me when a well-meaning person — I don’t know well — politely asked me how a piece of my work life was going. I parroted my friend Rick without even hesitating… “Why don’t you ask me about my remodel or my divorce or” … I stopped myself before I fell into the cancer comment…
Sometimes life gangs up on us and we lose sight of the little things until they all become big things blown out of proportion…
I have taken the past few weeks — to buying flowers — lots of fresh-cut grocery store flowers. It is admittedly an indulgence. But I don’t have pets to feed — the kids are grown — and I have a functioning car. A woman looked at my cart — I don’t think I knew her — and she said in a voice that might have been the ghost of my always disapproving mother … “Oh my … don’t you have A LOT of flowers in your cart.” My retort — a little too quickly spit out — “They are cheaper than therapy!”
And the truth is I mean it. I did plenty of therapy in my mid-life and I am grateful for all those sessions but eventually my therapist fired me. Said I was over the bad boyfriend and the rest of the stuff was all just pretty normal crazy. We’ve stayed friends and nearly two decades later we still meet to have dinners and share books.
My personal mental health improves every spring. Right now, with the epic snow piles starting to melt I am witness to green shoots everywhere. Light almost white-green and deeper that hint of the luminescent electric green of spring. It all makes me so curious about those nascent, straight-up stems — are they the start of crocus or iris or tulips or snapdragons?
And then I daydream just a bit and wonder — will this be the year I tear up a piece of my front lawn and replace it with lavender and rosemary and thyme and sage? (Yes, I know if I replace lavender with parsley I have a full Simon and Garfunkel song). Still — there is a corner I think it would work well and it would be a start to replace the grass with more drought-tolerant, sweet-smelling, purple-flowering growth.
Somewhere in the last couple of weeks when the daylight saving time waltzed in, the light changed. The early evening sky with smoky grayish sometimes darkish clouds hang above the light trapped between the mountaintop and touching the bottom of the clouds. A glowing almost vibrating light that doesn’t last long — a few minutes at best — but to witness that and be still — just for a moment — is to know the divine.
At the end of a workday when I returned home this week there was a bit of glow hitting my front porch. I noticed a visitor there. A rather large dark gray tabby cat with dark black spots. There was something quite exotic/primitive about the creature. Maybe leopard-like. Sitting on the edge of my porch surveying the tunnels in my lawn where voles or moles or varmints of some nature have been living and traveling underground.
It was a cat I didn’t know. You could see the killer instinct and the weave of raised grass/dirt tunnels probably indicated a happy hunting ground. And honestly,I am just fine with the whole circle of life thing when voles or moles are involved.
The birds are returning too. Even though I usually fill the feeders in an irregular fashion most winters — this year I did not. The snow was just too deep. I couldn’t reach the feeders. I reverted to opening bags of seed and tossing them into hollows I dug in the snow banks. Mostly the deer and moose ate those seeds. Which was fine too.
But now the melt has created some pathways and some of the feeders are accessible. This weekend should be just right for cleaning them out and filling them up and hearing all those songs I still don’t know how to identify.
There is a certain calm that comes from those routines. A kind of “chop wood, carry water” mentality as monks suggest. When times are overwhelming — chop wood, carry water — just do the work. When times are good don’t forget how you got there. Keep doing simple things — chop wood, carry water.
For a number of folks this has been an especially long hard winter — our little town was nearly swallowed whole by our success and a record snow year. Spring came on the calendar weeks ago the equinox of equal hours of light and dark. Right now we are on the path to more sunshine and green grass and vibrant colors from tulips to thyme. The thaw can be emotional as well as physical so be gentle on yourself, your yard and the creatures that live there. And take a moment to savor the sun setting and nod at the neighbor’s cat any day you happen to notice either. Like a Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
“Even the dogs were celebrating the reemergence of the sun.”