“Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying . . .” –Robert Herrick
I stepped out of the car and into the liquid sunshine pouring over the park. Above me, a brilliant flash of red caught my eye. A red-headed woodpecker landed near the top of an electric pole directly in front of me. It cocked its head this way and that, scampered around the top of the pole in half a circle, and then, with a quick flap of its wings, darted back across the road to land on the trunk of a nearby evergreen tree.
Smiling, I made my way around my car toward the trunk to stow away my purse before my jog began. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. The woodpecker found its morning rhythm; a reminder that I needed to do the same.
Along the sidewalk beside my car, a swishing caught my eye. It was the friendly sway of a tail of a large shaggy dog of no particular breed, replete with long black and white bushy fur. Hip-hop, hip-hop, scurried its four paws in a perfect cadence with its owner, leash amenably loose.
Inhaling, the crisp morning air rushed in prickly through my nose, and hinted of the day’s warming to come. Aromatic, earthy scents lingered in the air, a mix of damp earth, decaying leaves, and cold rocks. Breathing in once more, the fragrant air brought to mind a word a student had recently run across in a book, petrichor, and had asked me to not only pronounce it, but also explain it.
“Uhm, let’s see, the scent of walking along a wooded path after a rain.”
Inwardly smiling at that memory, in the geeky way of one who loves words, I closed the trunk, started a podcast, adjusted the volume low–in order to listen, but also hear the surrounding sounds–and away I went with my own pit-pat, pit-pat rhythm.
It was the kind of rare winter day in the Tri-State area in which the chilly morning would give way to golden sunshine warming the air to a relatively toasty 50 degrees. In fact, it was predicted to be the kind of day in which I want to tilt my head back, spread my arms, and embrace the sun’s rays in the same way a small child reaches for a loved one’s arms. Most January and February days, in our neck of the woods, are often cold, cloudy, and gray–wash and repeat–lacking little in the way of inspiration. Therefore, gleaming days of full-on sunshine must be celebrated, soaked-up, and gathered like a flower cut for a spring vase.
It reminded me of Saturday morning cereal as a teen. During those years, when I tended to sleep late, it was my habit to eat cold, boxed cereal upon my late morning rousing. Those were the days of pouring large bowls of cereal, hosing them down with milk, and reading the box as if it were a treasured novel.
Wheaties was a particularly popular brand at the time. I loved the ritual of letting those gingerbread colored flakes soak up the milk, making them thicker, sweeter, and chewier. Weird as it may sound, I savored each soaked spoonful, one ritualistic bite after another, in my attempt to lengthen the solitary solace of the morning.
That was how I felt on this day. Like cereal soaking up milk, I wanted to soak up the splendor of the rare, mid-winter sun sighting. Heading down the path, the sun played hide-and-seek with me, using clouds of varying thickness to conceal its bright warmth. Nonetheless, by my jog’s end, its rays were resplendent, warming the cab of my car as I lowered my bones inside. So, so yummy.
How many moments do we have in life in which nothing in particular is happening; and yet, it is everything all at once. All the simple sweetness of life wrapped up and twisted tootsie-roll tight, just waiting for us to take notice, sanguinely unwrap, and allow its taste to roll around, lingering on our tongues as we soak up all its sugary goodness. Those are the days where things flow, go right, feel good, but absolutely nothing special, per se, occurs. These need to be plucked, gathered, and dried between the pages of life, so we can hold, admire, and even cling to them during our darkest moments.
Life, I am finding, is a vase. A vase that cannot be filled with salaries, brand-names, large houses, or ranking status. Instead, it is a vase waiting to be filled with stems topped with colorful petals of memories. Memories of molten sunshine days, heads tossed back with laughter, tender kisses, and soft touches. Moments of whispered words and words best left unspoken. Memories and moments hand-picked over a period of time, arranged, rearranged, and replenished if only we take the time to gather them.
Like cereal soaking up milk, may you soak up all of the nourishment of an ordinary, every day moment. Fill your vase with the blossoms of these moments. May they nourish your spirit and feed your soul, even during the darkest days of winter.