I was walking a trail the other morning, alone. It was chilly but bright; sunshine causing the icy pond to sparkle. I was thinking of small things: the laundry to fold, some paperwork needing my attention, an appointment to schedule. I texted myself the short list, which allowed my mind to drop the to-do’s and focus on one thing: happiness in the great outdoors.
Writing is a process: thinking, jotting down, rethinking, writing, rewriting, deleting, and ultimately stringing sentences that dance. Occasionally the words flow swiftly, but most often they are a roaring house on fire, a blaze needing to be tamed and greatly calmed, becoming more of a steady, crackling fireplace. A fireplace to serve the reader with truth and beauty and warmth.
In order to shape words, I have learned that it is good for me to spend time outside. The fresh air, magnificent trees, walking trails, and ponds make me entirely happy. I move forward, enjoying the flitting cardinal, Canada Geese, and holly bushes, bright with berries. I see my breath puff in the cold, and then throw a stone in the pond, watching the ripples stretch over the surface.
These things blanket me, small and secure under the expansive sky, within a universe, held gently by God’s hands. My problems shrink as I gaze upon his beauty, on brilliant display, dazzling in all of nature.
This past week has been rainy, keeping me indoors, parted from those daily walks. I had been working steadily on a piece of writing, and it was simply not coming together. The whole thing fell apart, flat and dull, and I was stuck. I kept trying to prop it up, like a large party tent. The moment one stake felt stable, the tent began to droop in a million other places. This was so different from taming a house fire: it was more like begging for a spark that stubbornly refused to be kindled. After hours of alternately tapping at the keyboard and staring out the window, I gave up trying to force something to work that had already turned to ash.
And life itself can be much the same. We toil and sweat and push and plan, and some days the orchestra plays majestically in the background.
Other days we do the same, and the stuff of life crumbles, and that is that.
I am not waving a billboard inviting people to give up. I put great stock in plugging along. But I am beginning to understand what to do in those moments, when after working as hard as possible, God allows the shattering and the turning to dust.
I take a deep breath and quiet myself for a moment. Then I unclench my hands, and offer up my best laid plans and wishes and dreams to the Lord, resting in the knowing that the same Creator who spoke the world into existence, and wills my heart to beat, knows with precision what he is doing.
I awoke to a soft blanket of snow, falling gently this morning. The rain has passed; replaced with a winter wonderland. Beauty from ashes.