Like the Mighty Mohawk River just north of here, my life had been frozen since early winter. My wife’s passing in mid-December was preceded by a mind-numbing, spirit-draining six-week death bed vigil. Five months later, life is beginning to thaw.
“They say the first year is tough,” a colleague and friend imparted, “a year of firsts. First birthday, first anniversary, first Christmas.”
Here now I move through my first spring. The first of the tulips we planned and planted together. The first of the crocuses we would thrill to together each spring. First Easter dinner at daughter’s. First Valentine’s Day.
One could hardly choose a better time, were we able to choose such things, than early winter for one’s death. For me, winter is a time of silent beauty. Of harsh and austere yet uplifting and exhilarating landscapes. Not the toils of summer, but the tasks of winter, which seem more like little challenges to our will and stamina and Yankee stick-to-it spirit. The season also lends itself well to more temperate pastimes, like couch-sitting and window seat bird-watching and marathons of black and white theater serials. If one is a bit frozen oneself, with a need to lay low for a while, it is the perfect time to do so.
Writing- and journaling, have been a part of my life for decades, and during my low times I would occasionally yearn for a blank page and a few quiet moments, to literally compose my thoughts. My blogs are partly hobby-writing, partly diary and correspondence, partly artful expression, and I felt they were being neglected. For all my Armchair Zen and Chow Dog Zen I couldn’t reconcile the real world around me with the virtual world of the web and the fictional world of my dog’s imaginary doppelganger. Writing about personified dogs for my own amusement seemed pretty low on a list heavily influenced by duty and logic, perspective and priority, protocol and propriety. I couldn’t imagine how one could make good reading or Armchair Zen lessons out of the recounting of personal trials and tribulations.
Then it occurred to me that at some time in the past I started this blog as a way to share such experiences, show the trail markers and reference points, to share my learnings in the navigation of life. The shine of that high ideal, a product of those heady days a decade ago, has lost some presumptuous and arrogant luster over the passing years. Now ACZ often seems no more than the diary of some old hick that flattered himself into thinking this would be of interest to anyone whatsoever. A Geocentric Journal.
Then a new thought arrived at my doorstep. That the very real Here and Now are the very things I sought to address, ponder and share. These ordinary things of an ordinary life. During difficulties I plow ahead, shield raised, shoulders bent, the Celtic Warrior, blinders on, failing to follow the simplest tenets of my own patent-pending Armchair Zen philosophy. Failing to notice and actively support and participate in the world that continues spinning around me at an unaffected rate.
Finally, now, with the thaw, my mind ices-off gradually but steadily as Engleville Pond. We don’t will these events, nor can we ignore them. Earth tilts. Our centrifugal course around the gravity anchor decays at its infinitesimal rate, and the Equinox heralds the arrival of another spring for the northern hemisphere. The smells of warming soil, rain and mud are intoxicating, inebriating essences. The angle of the sun, the time of its setting, the putting away of snowshoes act as catalysts somehow, even for the oldest Armchair Zen philosopher, even for the weariest of souls. There is an undeniable instinct simply to breathe and stretch and strive, and it dwells always, even in the darkest cellars of a mind in the deep freeze of a northern winter, even in the winters of the heart.
And now these charts I share.
I am emerging from the thaw, the breakup of the ice pack, somewhat unsure just where I am. As if awakening amid the everyday things of the cargo hold. Have I fainted from the fever? Have I been Shanghaied?
On deck I hear the voices of familiar hands, their calls resonating and relayed from stem to stern;
“She’s coming about!”
I’m in the dark belly of the ship. I hear the clatters of the rigging and I am unsure of the heading to which we bear. Indeed, as unsure as I am of the heading we bear from. As unsure as I am of who I am, yet somehow I feel safe and sure and strong and know without conscious reason that this is the who and where I am supposed to be.
“She’s coming about!”
I remember a tempest. A trying and fearful time when all hands were flat out and all in.
As I climb the ladder, the morning light catches an epaulet on my shoulder.
I am the Captain, and the sun is rising.