It comes to me in the quiet of the gray of February. Sometimes I want to push it away, to savor the sadness for a while longer. But it insists on having a say.
And it whispers in the warmth of a pellet stove’s comforting flame. I feed yet another bag of fuel into the waiting hopper and think about how happy it makes me to have this source of heat in a farmhouse that is drafty around the edges.
It talks to me in the voices of friends and family, and I hear the love and sense the care. I can almost touch the intangible when I see their help, freely given. A clean house, an encouraging note, an errand run, an understanding word, a listening ear, pellets brought into the garage before I had to ask, trash taken to the road . . . The list is endless.
I smell it in the warming scent of chicken cooking on my kitchen range. The celery and onion combine with the smell of chicken and it makes me laugh to think that I got to the store at the right time to get two chickens for $.75 a pound just in time to make a big pot of soup on this gray day. When I go to the freezer, there is corn just waiting to be put into the big pot of broth. And I remember hot summer days and so much corn I wondered what in the world we were going to do with it all. And then I remember the helping hands and the conversation and the incredible results with more than enough corn for everyone. I rummage in the freezer and find the Lima Beans that are carefully stashed from last summer as well. I remember long hours in the bean patch, with the biting flies and wasps and stink bugs. The memories of having bean plants that good friends gave us, picking fat Delaware Limas that my strong husband planted and weeded and tended so carefully, along with the memories of the sweet yellow corn, make me happy down to my toes. The green limas look vibrant, and I know will taste wonderful. I drop them into the soup along with with the corn, shred two long orange carrots and put those in for some color. The lid of my big kettle pops a merry tune while the soup simmers. It makes me so happy to be able to make soup, enough for us and to share.
On a busy Saturday, my neighbor stops by to get some of that soup. I’ve not known her long, but she is kind and she offers friendship and smiles and diversion. We visit together while I fold my laundry and it’s an interlude of shared life and the joy finds me and reminds me how good it is to have new friends and neighbors that are friendly.
The days have been the strange mixture that I’ve learned is normal for February and also for this season of my life. The sadness wants to crop up, unexpected and unbidden, to drip onto the counter where I’ve turned to try to hide the fact that, once again, I’m crying. And I think about the losses, and I miss my Sweet Mama, and I want to just stay there in the sadness for a while. I want to sit on my chair and think about, well, stuff. But often, when I go there, there is this little bird that chirps a greeting, and often sings a chop and a trill of joy. He’s a grey canary, and he lived with my Sweet Mama for the last years of her earthly life. On days when I’m missing her the most, I’ll stand by his cage and ask him, “Pretty Bird, do you miss her, too?’ He’s often very quiet while I weep.
But sometimes, he sings. He sings a song that speaks hope and Heaven to my heart. He sings of contentment and he sings joy. I listen to his song and think about another bird, no longer caged, but truly home and free and alive and singing. I know she’s singing!
And through the sorrow, I know the perpetuity of joy. It seeks me out, it will not let me go. I will always miss her, and this life will always hold sorrow of some kind, some how (and usually, today!). But it gives all of life a different color to have glimpses of joy where ever I look and in whatever I see. Sometimes it’s so fleeting I’m not sure it’s there. But usually (usually!) I can find it if I look for it. And so, I will look.
And for this gift of constant joy, my heart gives grateful praise.