I have managed to miss most of these rush hour events this year, but not today. I am bound for Chicago to await the delivery of two big pallets of perennial roots at my old machinery warehouse. If this was December I might love this storm, but it’s March. These storms have been a regular occurrence since mid-November and each traffic light is taking three or four cycles to get through.
Ahead of me I watch a young mother and her three-year-old son cross the street. Then with the little guy in the lead they walk single file on the snow covered sidewalk that parallels the street in my direction. Traffic in front of me finally starts to creep but I am able to focus on the kid for a few seconds and it makes my morning for his face radiates joy, and wonder, and celebration.
He delights in the magic of the fallen and falling snow—his world freshly whitened and sculpted. He steps gently sensing the little crunch and slips underfoot, his eyes follow the glide paths of snow flakes, he is oblivious to the cold, the traffic, the ordinary.
Today is Ash Wednesday, a not necessarily immediately uplifting day to its observers. Along with that splotch of dirty gray ash from last season’s desiccated palms there is that Genesis quote, “For dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Our spiritual leaders seem naturally compelled to remind the rest of us about mortality, which is a rather significant fact whatever your religious beliefs.
I have come to believe that the state of being alive is kind of an interwoven path that includes a lot more than whether you are physically in the land of the living or not. I’ve found it has to do with zest for life; with the capacity to think, and nurture, and enrich and with the ability to empathize, appreciate, and cherish. I guess it has to do with the soul, the spirit, our essence. And it’s not hard to damage or diminish the spirit. A long winter, a bit of bad luck, ill health, or a loved one’s issues can all do it. At the Farm we are trying get 2014 growing and so far it has been one problem after another mostly caused by the weather. I spend the whole day in Chicago and the promised perennials (between 9 am and noon) never arrive.
It is easy to focus on the difficulties and adversities at hand. If I can remember the child in the Ash Wednesday snow storm and his sense of wonder, enchantment, and celebration, I will be a lot better off. It should be easy—I was that child once.