At the top of a 50’ quaking aspen that dug in and sent its roots far below the creek bed, a single leaf is flapping and spinning madly in an invisible thermal, while all of the other leaves, each and every one, remain still as if painted and suspended in time. It’s the sort of gift and spectacle of nature for which I will gladly pull up a lawn chair and sit enthralled until the plot shifts and another story line emerges—a broader gust of wind catching the crunchy and curled leaves on the ground, moving them through the meadow as one, a brown-and-tan low-riding flying carpet. Like any wise person, I’m on my feet in a one-person standing ovation, clapping delightedly for a solid two minutes.
It seems selfish to call out “Encore!”, but my heart speaks it anyway.
I woke up around 5 o’clock today (I love sleeping in, don’t you?), and quickly became the human version of that singular and madly spinning leaf atop the tree of my new day, while the rest of the house lay still. Three loads of laundry done and hanging on the line just as the sun crested the horizon, dishes done and drying in the rack, living room straightened, stray things back in their rightful places and the hot pot simmering on its way to a crescendo-ing boil for my Sunday cup of Earl Grey sweetened with fresh maple cream. Then off to tackle the box of supplies we take with us each Saturday to the local farmer’s market, sorting each of the granola flavor signs, restocking the paper cups we use for samples, thinning out the number of pens we keep in the money bag (seriously, more than two is extravagant, if not redundant) and questioning why there are so many empty plastic baggies doing nothing more than taking up space. Add more business cards, more postcards inviting people to visit this very blog site (folks frequently ask where the granola is made; “Welcome to Naked Acres” gives a depth and breadth of context that far outstrips their simple curiosity, I’m sure), and a fistful of different-colored ceramic hearts that we give to the market’s younger visitors for free. Another checkbox on my to-do list ticked and tucked away.
Settling down on my side of the dual recliner unit, a freshly-peeled hard boiled egg in a Japanese condiment dish with bunnies on it, a bowl of yogurt with a heavy-handed sprinkle of Raspberry Vanilla granola, and that patient cup of Earl Grey cooling until its just the right temperature to drink without scalding my alimentary system, I exhale into a simple morning routine that includes a triumphant go at the New York Times mini crossword puzzle (in 45 seconds; 19 is my personal best and record so far) and listing five things I’m grateful for on my Facebook page. Of course I’m going to think about what else needs to get done today.
Fast forward to twelve hours after I woke up and that “what else” included cutting down one of several trees at a co-worker’s home that were offered up as free firewood, loading what would fit in the bed of the red Tacoma and driving off with a promise to come back and chip away at the rest over the next few weeks. On our way home, we stop at the little general store in Homer to restock the humble inventory of granola that the owner, Jean, gladly sells for us, and get to talking with a customer who saw the logs and branches piled in the truck, and offered us another pile of cut wood on the edge of his land. Turns out he lives behind us on the other side of our woods, so today, we met another neighbor. That’s nice. We shake hands, make plans, and finally get home, where we drive out to the sweat lodge area to unload the truck.
Why am I telling you all this? In the most gracious part of your hearts, dear readers, I pray you’ll receive it as a simple report of the day’s activities working its way toward some Point, and not a swaggering account of how efficient I am as a self-described morning person. When I slow it all down in writing and fill in the details, I truly wonder how I’ll handle retirement and the eventual idleness that comes with an aging body. While I’m grateful for the continued ability to move about and get things done, there are as many projects and tasks that go undone, and sometimes it’s wearying to confront that. As I write this, I realize that I still need to make the bed in the guestroom (the sheets were on the line all day, as the wind snapped and blew them into smooth submission—nature’s ironing board and iron), pick out what I’m wearing to work tomorrow, pack my lunch so the morning isn’t a mad dash through the house, and both litter boxes are due for a deep cleaning. Those are all noble and good, as to-do list items go, but honestly, I’d really rather be making a new customer-recommended flavor of granola—carrot cake, with yogurt raisins to carry in the cream cheese frosting element. Tired as I am, that still sounds like fun.
Little leaf in the thermal, I can relate.
So I practice being quiet at the end of a busy day. Let my to-do list gather a bit of dust until tomorrow. I sit on the porch and face the west as it takes my accomplishments below the tree line in a gentle glow of orange and pink. But even when the body sits in stillness, the heart still moves to its beating rhythm, sending blood moving through our veins, and cells reproduce, and air comes in and out of our lungs and thoughts connect to one another and ideas evolve and…it just keeps going. We need pauses between the action, of course, but we never really stop moving, do we? The secret to managing all of this lest we go mad is to adjust the speed at which it all unspools off the source. We can let things go undone. We have divine permission to focus on one of those breaths of air our lungs receive. We can register the movement of a single leaf, and sink into the sunset’s colors while the sheets to the bed in the guestroom wait to be re-employed. And the litter boxes can wait until tomorrow.
But as I think of what I’ll have for breakfast, I’d like to reconsider that new batch of granola.