It’s that first whiff as a wave of wood smoke wafts by your nose. It’s the lawn chairs pulled out from the back of the garage, now waiting on the patio. It’s the surprising warmth of the sun in the late afternoon. It’s the pile of brush heaped into the portable firepit, spitting sparks and sinking into coals and ash. It’s all of this that draws me outdoors, out into the fresh spring air.
That’s when the bag of marshmallows emerges, and last summer’s marshmallow sticks are pulled from their hiding place. The stick ends are whittled clean, and the familiar ritual begins. Bundled against the chilling breeze, we lean into the warmth of the fire as we meditatively twirl our marshmallows over the hot coals. Smoke tendrils spiral upwards as the white-coated sweets turn brown and pocked with heat. I lift the perfectly toasted marshmallow to my mouth. Mmm.
Photo taken on April 10, 2011
I’ve read a number of other people’s resolutions and goals for 2011 in the last couple of days. It almost seems as if, on the stroke of 12:01 a.m. January 1st, their ambitious plans suddenly popped up on the calendar, ready to be checked off the list.
I look at my calendar, and it tells me nothing.
Sure, there are lots of things I’d like to accomplish in 2011, but my main goal — a successful career change — needs more than a few quick checkmarks. As I’ll be turning the big 5-0 soon, I figure that whatever career I end up (hopefully sooner than later) should be one I can stick with.
I feel like I’m ready for a change, but I don’t want to rush into the wrong decision.
This photo, taken during a snowstorm last January, reminds me how much things can change. Since it was taken, we’ve built a fence and made a lot of improvements to the house and garden. But here in the middle of winter, it’s harder to see the changes, the thick snow falling now doesn’t feel any different than last year’s snow.
So I’m not in a hurry. I’m taking stock, watching the weather, and trying to be prepared for the inevitable changes that lie ahead, just around the corner.
Photo taken on January 20, 2010
Wait a minute. Yes yes, of course you’re busy, there’s much to do, but you can afford one minute. OK, take a deep breath and let it out again slowly. Let your shoulders relax. Now, I know it’s less than three weeks to Christmas, but picture each day as a separate event instead of letting them all run together. Then imagine that each day on the calendar has a door that you can open ahead of time and peak inside.
Before you look, think first about what you would like to find behind tomorrow’s door. It might be something as simple as enjoying a cup of tea while the smell of baking cookies wafts from the oven. Or the single perfect snowflake that falls on your sleeve when you are walking to work. Or throwing the ball high in the air, watching the dogs quiver with anticipation and seeing, for a split second, time suspended.
Now imagine what you would like to find when you open the next door, and the next. Think of things you can look forward to over the next three weeks. Think of this as your Advent calendar, full of little gifts and small joys waiting to surprise you each day. The things you aren’t looking forward to will happen the way they always do, of course, and then they will disappear into the past just like everything else you once worried about. But if you don’t stop, now, and deliberately anticipate some of the good things that might happen, you might miss them entirely.
Photo taken on November 24, 2010