We woke up this morning to more snow, a lovely fluttering snowfall that just barely covered the ground before it started melting mid-morning. Because we live in a river valley, we get a lot of wind, and the flakes tend to flutter and blow sideways and do other odd and beautiful things before they actually land on anything. Dana and I used to joke, the first few years we lived here, that it actually only snowed about a hundred flakes every winter, and that those same hundred flakes just blew around the whole season.
I've been feeling very tired, and so the sudden whiteness on the ground was especially healing. It looked like a clean white page, ready for the writing of a new story in a new day.
I've been doing the "it looks like" game a lot for myself lately, courtesy of my daughter's fascination with the idea. I'm not sure when Booper started saying that things "looked like" other things, and if she picked it up from me or just came up with it on her own, but she does it often. Some of her "looks like" ideas are very creative. At lunch today she was munching on apple slices, held them up together, grinned and announced "It looks like two moons hugging." Three year old poets are wonderful!
Yesterday was another good one. We'd gone for a walk to the little library here in town in the late morning, and the weather was unbelievably balmy. We wore light jackets, and mine almost felt too heavy. The light looked like spring, the air almost (but not quite) smelled like spring, and it was almost 50 degrees. Later in the afternoon, nearing dinner time, I decided I wanted to pick up an early Sunday paper, so we walked a few blocks to get one. I'd heard it was going to get colder, so I put Sarah in a heavier coat, but I foolishly shrugged into my light one again (well, it's a fleece jacket, and a favorite of mine, but the zipper broke on it so it's not very warm at all). It had dropped close to 20 degrees, I bet, and the wind was biting...you could tell snow was probably on its way. Even Sarah, native Pittsburgher, was admitting it was cold.
And I confess I struggled with one more blast of winter. Walking down a gray street under a gray sky, thinking about our difficult financial and job situation, aching a bit with the knowledge that some of our closest friends here will soon be moving away (again) I suddenly wasn't sure I could deal with one more cold, windy winter walk in this loveable but broken town. As we battled on against the wind (and walking home we were definitely against it) I found myself struggling to even try to imagine any change in our circumstances. Last year, during some of the harder times, I was able to buoy myself up with imagined futures where we were settled somewhere warmer, greener, someplace where I actually had a small yard and a patch where I could grow flowers. Most of the time I'm pretty good about living fully in the present (a lesson the Lord has taught me over and over here) but sometimes I need to do some fruitful and hopeful imagining. And yesterday, suddenly, walking down that wind-cold street, I just couldn't muster the energy to imagine a garden anymore.
That's when Sarah's three year old imagination (though she didn't know it) brought healing to my heart. She suddenly came to a stop, reached over to pick something up off the sidewalk, and lifted it triumphantly in the air. "Wow, Sarah, pretty neat!" I think she said (or something like that...it's one of her favorite phrases these days...she likes to talk to herself). I tugged at her other cold hand to hurry her along. "What is it, sweetie?" I asked. She waved the something around with great abandon. We were passing the town square, the one with several trees, and I saw that she'd picked up an old brown and brittle seed pod, round and prickly, on a stem. Not very beautiful. But Sarah waved it like it was a prize and announced "It looks like a dandelion!" I started laughing. I squeezed that little hand and said something like "Sarah, only you could see a dandelion in an old seed pod." She just beamed at me and repeated, "It kinda looks like a flower. Pretty neat!" Out of the mouths of babes. Bless her.
So I need to keep exercising my imagination, using my eyes with the freshness of a three year old's eyes. I need to keep saying "it looks like ----" and then filling in the blank, with hope, with beauty, and yes, when need be, with imagined gardens.