Seasons Greetings

12-15-2015 | Lindsay

It's a warm and snowless Advent here on the small mountain where we live. In another year, I would write about it--the mist laying softly around the gray trees, the loamy smell of the leaves heaped over the trails and forest floor, the thunk, thunk of the red-bellied woodpecker coming muffled in the wet air. The fact is, though, that for the past month I have been immersed in a different world.

In the first days of November I traveled to Greensboro, NC,  to help out during the birth of our fifth grandchild, the third in that family. I was there primarily to give a hand with the children, getting them to school (4th grade and pre-K); and with meals and household chores. Our son is a first-year teacher in a middle school in Winston-Salem, a 45-minute commute. Hired just in September, he was not eligible for leave.

The family lives on a suburban street with no sidewalks, in the only string of modest ranch-style homes not dominated by attached garages. While oaks and maples grow amid clipped bushes in meticulously tended yards, the world is shot through with pavement, and everything is a drive away: school, park (rec center), library, grocery. It is solace in such settings to remember that nothing, it seems, can hold back magic, particularly when assisted by children. We rolled in leaves tidily piled by the curb, discovered raccoon prints in the culvert where we were playing at echoes, marveled at a grasshopper on the macadam of the bikeway at the rec center, dropped plate-sized sycamore leaves off a road bridge and watched them float to the water management stream below, had pirate adventures on the wooden footbridge over a creek by the playground area, blew the last lingering dandelions in the ball field and examined the many small insects buzzing and floating over the grass, jumped for joy many, many times on a neighbor's trampoline, and read aloud a multitude of marvelous stories in the children's section of the library, which had--to my delight--a display case devoted to Thomas Berry, a native son of Greensboro.

Our newest grandson was born healthy and without a hitch several days before Thanksgiving, and I returned to Rolling Ridge last Saturday. It is good to be home and surrounded by my community: stopping by in people's kitchens to catch up and drop off mail from the end of the lane, chucking compost over the fence to the chickens once more, munching pizza and stuffing envelopes together at the mailing party two nights ago. Equally good to walk down the gravel/dirt lane with a bag of garbage for the dumpster, then wander back along Caddisfly Branch with the morning sunlight slanting through the tall, statuesque poplars and falling over the rocky stream.

I loved being immersed in the world of children and grandchildren, the helter skelter of family life, the pins-and-needles of an immanent birth, the spaghetti suppers and bubble baths. I love too my life surrounded by woods, the bustle of intentional community, the times of quiet and silence, my work.

In this season when the atmosphere crackles with expectation and we look for the light coming at us through the mysterious dark, it is good to realize that the magic is everywhere, the grace of love and wonder: in leaf piles and playgrounds, cuddles and whispered stories, a newborn's tiny toes, songs about meatballs and rubber duckies; and in the brown flash of the hawk amid the tangled trees, the moss on the tumbled rock, the sweet and tangy air.

May you and your friends and loved ones be touched always by magic, in this season and every one to come.