seasons

A Month of Mornings

The plaster is peeling from our kitchen ceiling. The washroom fan is covered in dust. There’s an oil slick the size of Montana on the driveway. And for the last several months the bedroom walls have displayed a few two-foot swatches we painted so that we could pick a color, but we never got around to choosing.

These are things I almost never notice. I only bring them up because I just walked around my house and tried to notice them on purpose. Over the weekend I learned the term hemmablind, a Swedish word that means “blind to things at home.” It’s typically used in a negative way to refer to all the flaws we fail to notice once we’ve become accustomed to them—the dirt around a doorknob, the scratched paint on the banister, and the curtains that aren’t quite level along the floor. 

But we’re blind to all kinds of things that are part of home to us. We grow accustomed to our possessions, our neighborhoods, and even our people. Maybe one of the curses and blessings of friendships and even marriage is a healthy dose of hemmablind-ness, a familiarity that allows us to settle in with one another so deeply that we fail to see each other’s flaws. Hemmablindness ain’t all bad unless it means that we aren’t really present, aren’t really taking note of the things worth noting. But sometimes we need something to shake us out of being hemmablind so that we can see what we need to work on… or even to remind us why what we have is so great.

One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed being back in the midwest after so many years in southern California is because of seasons. If being hemmablind were a disease, the shift of seasons is the vaccination. How can one become overly familiar with the world when it is being drastically repainted every three months? The pastel spring ushers in the emerald summer, which gives way to the rust and ochre of autumn, all of it finally surrendering to the whitewashed winter. It’s new again and again and again and again.

For the last month, my early-morning run through the marshland near my home has perfectly aligned with the entrance of autumn. The procrastination of dawn has meant that my month has been full of sunrises. The cold air and warm earth have colluded to grant a mist that renders everything magical. And the crisp mornings have made me feel like I can run for hours. 

During this perfect month of mornings I’ve had so many moments when I’ve had to stop and look around and smile and snap a photo and take it all in with a deep and delicious I-am-here-and-fully-here kind of breath. 

Already, as the days grow shorter, I’m spending more of my run in the dark. My fingertips are going numb as cool surrenders to the cold. The mist has metamorphosized into frost. The change is sad in a way, but it’s making me look at everything from the beginning again, helping to banish my blindness, helping me see just how good home can be.

Here are a few photos from this month:

New Season. New Ingredients.

This isn’t a post about cooking. Or food. Well, maybe a little. But mostly not. The weather is changing, finally. Buds are breaking open. The lawns are growing in uneven mounds. The sun seems to stay around a little longer every day. And the sunsets are less buried behind mounds of grey clouds. Spring is showing her face, and she’s grinning ear to ear.

Suddenly I’m in the mood for green bean salads, corn on the cob, peaches, and anything accompanied by charcoal smoke. I want cocktails laced with mint and blackberries. I’m craving lemon bars and strawberry shortcake. These are the vittles of spring and summer, and the sunshine makes me want them.

Only in the last couple years have I begun to enjoy cooking. (What really happened is that I stopped being intimidated by the stove and cookware and kitchen timers.) But one of the things I love most is how new seasons bring new ingredients. You wouldn’t make peach cobbler in the winter. Who would prepare pumpkin pie in July? No, each season has ingredients that are best in that season.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was picking produce, and the thought suddenly struck me: When was the last time I changed my life-giving ingredients? When did I last stir up the things I use to give life it’s flavor?

I’m a big believer in having disciplines. Our home is often chaos with three kids running (or crawling… or falling) amok. My work is a brand new challenge nearly every day. So my habits, my practices, they keep me on the level. But I recently wrote about how I feel like I’ve been waiting on spring to spring up in my own heart, and now I’m thinking that one way to help that along might be to change up the ingredients a little bit.

I’m looking at each of the things I regularly do and asking:

How can I mess with that?

I’ve been reading mostly non-fiction. I need to read some novels.

I’ve been watching mostly TV shows. Maybe I need some movies.

I’ve been listening to podcasts. Time to find some new music.

I’ve been keeping a journal. Tomorrow I should take up drawing again.

I’ve been diving deep into just a couple verses of scripture at a time. Maybe it’s time to take in whole chapters or books.

A couple weeks ago, when spring was still unsteady on her feet, I jumped the gun and started cooking up spring-like things. I laid out the welcome mat for her, and now she’s at the door. Whose to say we can’t hasten our hearts toward the next season of life too with a little precocious planning?

Spring

First it snowed. The next day it was warm and breezy and we played outside in the sunshine on the swings. The day after that it snowed again. Today it’s raining.

That has been April so far. Spring so far. One step forward; two steps back.

My heart has been doing an identical dance because inside I’ve felt a kind of winter for a little too long. And while I sense I might be in the last gray days, they haven’t all felt like a forward march.

I’ve sometimes thought of spring as a coy, young thing. She’s a little shy, coming ever closer down the path but darting behind every tree as she draws near, peeking out, only one eye showing.

Or as a tease in a game of hide and seek. While I stand quiet in the woods attentive to every rustle of leaves underneath her feet, she moves from hiding place to hiding place. At first the game is thrilling as the giggles ring off of everything, but in time it turns wearisome and I find myself sighing and then muttering, “Enough already.”

Or as someone indecisive or even capricious. One day she’s this and the next day she’s that and the day after that she’ll be something else entirely.

Maybe that thinking originates in the pastels and petals, the scents that flit by with the breeze, the sudden storm that’s just as suddenly gone, and the gangly and helpless new creatures. All these signs of new life feel so delicate and ephemeral.

But I’m starting to think spring is a soldier.

The garden and the grass arm themselves with sharpened spears to pry open the hardened ground. The delicate flower must first burst open the branch with a bud. And marshaling heat enough to chase away the months of cold is a terrible feat. Spring comes in bits and pieces because she’s only just beginning to break through enemy lines. Some days she’s beaten back, and some days she takes ground. She soldiers on.

As I anticipate the coming of a kind of spring in my own heart… I might need to fight.