We don’t get real winter here. You know, when you cover everything but your eyes and nose, and then hope the cold doesn’t freeze your eyelids shut. Here, we prefer to stick to grey and rain, mostly. Probably because we’re really good at it. But every once in awhile, it’s cold enough to ice-over Fisher Pond. And that means one thing: a winter party.
It’s a shallow lake in the middle of Vashon Island, maybe five feet deep, but covers five acres. Along the back of the pond is a stand of Aspen trees, now without leaves, a one-acre backdrop of quicksilver bark.
It’s cold here (in the 20s), and the sun is out in all its glory. And when there’s ice on the pond, there’s only one place to be. On Friday, Zach and I spent the afternoon skating. (There’s an islander who has been collecting skates over the years, and he brings a few dozen pair, to loan out for the day.) It brings to mind Zach’s very first time on skates, in 2008 on Fisher pond. He reported, “I think I’m a natural.”
There is a hockey game in full swing. Some guys my age (who have dusted off their skates and are grinning ear to ear), and a few youngsters (who are either Canadian, or transplants from the Midwest, because hockey is not our blood here). We join in.
The slap of the stick on the puck echoes through the air and into the Aspen trees around the pond, and I am standing on Palmer Lake in Southern Michigan, a young boy pretending he is Gordie Howe.
Here’s what I know for certain, watching everyone on the pond: They are all certified members of The Society of Childlike Grownups. It’s a pretty good club to join. And it takes days, like this day, to remind us to ask, “Why do we so easily forget?”
As a member of this Society of Childlike Grownups, we are entitled to many things, including the permission to… sing in the shower, have a merry heart, read children’s books, act silly, skate in middle age (and pretend to be a hockey star), take bubble baths, hold hands and hug, dance, fly kites, laugh out loud, cry out loud, wander around, give up worry and guilt and shame, say yes and no and the magic words ‘thank you,’ talk with animals, name the shapes in the clouds, ask lots of questions, and waste an entire afternoon.
This week I read Fredrik Backman’s, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, an exquisite portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold onto his most precious memories, sitting on a bench in a square with his grandson Noah, in a world that gets smaller by the day.
“He always wants to know everything about school, but not like other adults, who only want to know if Noah is behaving. Grandpa wants to know if the school is behaving. It hardly ever is.
Our teacher made us write a story about what we want to be when we’re big, Noah tells him.
What did you write?
I wrote that I wanted to concentrate on being little first.
That’s a very good answer.
Isn’t it? I would rather be old than a grown-up. All grown-ups are angry, its just children and old people who laugh.
Did you write that?
What did your teacher say?
She said I hadn’t understood the task.
And what did you say?
I said, she hadn’t understood my answer.
I love you, Grandpa manages to say with closed eyes.”
It’s about resetting the scales that we use to weigh and measure what is important. What is of value. What is life-giving. It pays to remember that not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. (Quote attributed to William Cameron.)
My neighbor, Jack, told me this story about another time that Fisher pond iced over. “I was on my way to a meeting. At church, on liturgy. It was for lay readers and acolytes. Driving by Fisher pond, I saw all the cars parked by the side of the road, and another friend out on the ice with his hockey stick and puck, wearing his Detroit Red Wing jersey. That settled it for me. I turned my car around, went back home for my skates and my two sons, and we headed back to the pond. My sons and I spent the afternoon skating and playing.”
“As far as I was concerned,” Jack continued, “this was an emergency. The way I figure it, there are different kinds of emergencies. The need to ice skate with your sons is one of them. I don’t know if the people at the meeting missed me or not. I felt a little guilty at first. But I knew spending the day on the ice was the right thing to do. I guess I didn’t realize how much I needed it.”
Our Seattle Office of Emergency Management website has information on preparing for hazards-including earthquakes, windstorms, tsunamis, floods, bomb threats and power outages. Emergency planning, it tells me, saves lives. Unfortunately, I seldom take notice, until say, my house is doing an imitation of Noah’s ark. Then, I panic, and hunt for instructions about treading water.
Planning… It is no different with the need to nourish and replenish my soul.
Emergency planning (care, mindfulness, the power of pause, rituals, join the society of childlike grownups) saves lives. A recent report says that 68% of us is stressed to the point of feeling “extremely fatigued and out of control.” (Apparently the other 32% were too tired to respond.) Which means that when I do get around to “taking care of my soul,” it’s already at the critical stage. And yes, critical care (picking up the pieces) emergencies are necessary and vital. However (and this is an important however), if I notice only the urgency for critical care, I miss the necessity of maintenance-soul-care (practices that promote protection, safeguarding, fortification and stopping to replenish).
Yes, life is chock-a-block full. And our world is acclimated to speed and a crush of information. Literally, a deluge. Some meant to inform and enlighten, some to peddle, some to obfuscate, some to infuriate, some to settle scores. The result? Disquiet.
That’s why we need (more than ever) maintenance-soul-care: to make space for wisdom, compassion, prayer, delight, generosity of spirit, and respect for all life.
The other gift from Friday is this… time outside. I just finished Richard Louv’s The Nature Principle, where he explores nature’s power to heal. That we, as a culture suffer from “Nature deficit disorder,” an atrophied awareness and a diminished ability to find meaning in the gifts of life that surround us. To which I say, Amen. And join me in the garden…
My neighbor Jack missed his Church meeting. But he had something more important to do. Sometimes it takes a frozen pond and a guy in a Detroit Red Wing hockey jersey to bring us to our senses.
Friday was The Feast of the Epiphany (or the Feast of the Magi, the Three Kings’ visit to the Christ child). Or as we know it in this culture, the 12th day of Christmas. So the tree came down. And the ornaments are tucked away for another year.
Today the snow is melting. Fisher pond will be conceding to the warmer rainy weather. So, no skating. Even so, when I drive by today, I smile. Real big.
Note: Thank you for your patience with the Donor Emails… They’re done now. And I’m so grateful for your notes and your gifts. They make a difference, and allow the Sabbath Moment ministry to thrive. But please remember that SM is FREE, no donation required. So spill the light… pass it on…
Quote for your week…
To be a Child Once Again
And in the sea our true selves
will unfold and we will be one before God,
and the sea will touch our hearts,
and our souls will be filled with gladness,
like that of a child.
And once again, we shall be free.
POEMS AND PRAYERS
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
please give me
A few friends who understand me and remain my friends;
A work to do which has real value,
without which the world would be the poorer;
A mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed;
An understanding heart;
A sense of humor;
Time for quiet, silent meditation;
A feeling of the presence of God;
The patience to wait for the coming of these things,
With the wisdom to recognize them when they come.