Teri Orr: Wintering the season at hand…
We are here — at the midway point — of our collective winter of discontent. I had been thinking the full disorientation of too many events crammed into too short a space of time combined with mild weather was making me, alone, completely out of sync. But it turns out there are many of us suffering, increasingly in less silence, about how we feel a bit unmoored this faux winter season.
I had lunch this week with an old friend/former fellow teammate from a work environment almost 30 years ago. We have stayed friends probably because the bonds we made in the pressure cooker of the newsroom are like no other. We have been involved deeply in our community in different ways ever since — because we genuinely love it here.
But this lunch we talked a lot about “getting off the bus.” Not stopping our work lives but trying to stop some of the insanity swirling around us. The never-ending cycle of needing to respond to the next crisis and or email. And there is always a next crisis. January had been brutal. The traffic — the news cycle — and the mild weather — had made for extra work in abnormal conditions. We both commented how hard it was to feel winter when it was sunny and 51 degrees outside.
We laughed a lot too — as we always did — part of the glue that has kept us friends. And as we left the diner and walked outside with the sun shining in the bright blue sky, he stopped in the parking lot and said, “What a beautiful day!” I responded by saying, “Unfortunately!” And then I stopped myself and backed up and said, “You’re right. It is a beautiful day and I should just enjoy it for what it is.” And he replied — “See, that’s what I mean about wanting to get off the bus. We are so ingrained in what we think we should want, we kinda miss what we have.”
That night after a day of work-related moderate full-body slams, I pulled the drapes at home and looked around for something for dinner. I was feeling sorry for myself, which is a room I try not to enter very often. I decided the solution was chocolate pudding for dinner. I had some pre-made from the store along with some whipped cream. I covered the pudding with so much whipped cream it looked like it had fully snowed all over the dark pudding. I ate every bite while I rented a movie on television and got lost in the book brought to screen I had loved years ago.
The book was being assigned to middle school kids the galaxy over about four years ago. So all my Grands were reading it and I did too. It was called “Wonder” about a boy who was entering public school for the first time at fifth grade. He had been born with a number of defects that required a number of surgeries and left him with a scarred misshapen face. His mother had homeschooled him. Entering school for the first time at that pivotal moment in life was a challenge — for his parents and older sister. I loved the book as did the Grands when we all read it.
The movie features Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson — who has never won an Oscar. I don’t think this is his year either. But the story wasn’t really about their characters — it was about their son, Auggie, and how cruel kids can be and how the human spirit is resilient and how kindness always wins. I had about a two-hour nonstop deeply cathartic cry.
I did get back on the bus — er computer — after the film to … just check a few things. Xfinity had already sent me a message about my buying the movie. “You chose a good one,” it said. And I laughed since that is ALWAYS what it says when you purchase any film.
A friend who makes her living from the land in a different way had posted that the arrival of her seed packets was occasion to celebrate because — “they give me hope.” And I looked carefully at the photo. There were packets of fennel and brandywine tomatoes and pumpkins waiting for the ground to thaw in her high-desert location so she could plant those seeds that will become the vegetables that will be the ingredients that will become the meals she will serve again in her award-winning kitchen. She loved the arrival of the packets because seeds help her see the future.
Which is what has been missing for a while in our nose-down daily grinds of a season that is neither fully winter or anything else. The mild temperatures have confused plants in the yard and things are popping up that should never be seeing a February in the mountains. I have lived here long enough to not be surprised by snow in any month of the calendar. I’m guessing this year will not be different. When the resorts close we often have great storms for days, sometimes weeks, on end. Mother Nature is a fickle brazen hussy some years. I suspect this is one of those. Fat Tuesday is next week and the season of Lent begins the day before Valentine’s Day — which seems unusually cruel. I mean giving things up the day before you might really want them. So this year I’m gonna follow my friend, Sister MaryAnne’s lead and instead of giving up anything for the season I will add something. I will try very hard to add gratitude for things just the way they are … every day including this Sunday in the Park…
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“It was a good lesson to be reminded of … that things don’t always go as planned, that people you’ve known forever can still surprise you…”