Saturday, March 3, 2012

Walking, waiting and weeding in Lent

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
Mother Teresa
      On a recent walk at Charlestowne Landing, I had to watch my step. It's reptile alley time as I call it, with turtles and alligators sunning themselves for hours, soaking in the energy of spring. Not warmed enough to move quickly, they are less likely to slip into ponds as walkers come along, so I've learned to watch my step. I also take time to enjoy the remaining camellia blooms before they pass out of season, and I think how in Yosemite National Park, at just this time of year, Horsetail Fall looks like a waterfall of molten lava.
      This pleases me. I can't slow down time or pause my kids at what seem magical moments of development. But I can pause and reflect. One of my resolutions for Lent is to slow down and process more, do such things as have more game nights with the kids, linger over a meal. I'm realizing life is lived in the pauses, in doing the small things.

     Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. I watched the clock in an increasing state of frustration as the last minutes of February ticked away. I was waiting for news, potentially big news for me, a yes or no answer that I had been promised would come by the end of February. And of course this just had to be a Leap Year! But even with that excruciatingly long extra day, my answer still did not come. Instead, on March 1 I got an email telling me the decision would be delayed until March 15! Another two weeks?!
     How much of my life is spent waiting. And I think sometimes I would speed through it all if I could. I remember as a child, the six month stretch between my birthday and Christmas seemed an intolerably long time to go without presents. Later it seemed as if I would never be old enough to drive, never finish high school, never get to travel, never graduate from college, never find a job, and on and on. But all those nevers did eventually come to be, and now I can hardly remember what the waiting was like, until another situation like this one leaves me powerless to do anything but wait.
     There is an element of waiting in Lent. It is a slowing down season. Those of us who gave up some cherished food or habit may find ourselves thinking, "Hasn't it been 40 days yet?!" Fast-forwarding to Holy Week sounds like a good idea sometimes. But I have to keep reminding myself that there is value in the waiting. I need those times when there is nothing I can do but wait, when I am certain that I am not in control of what happens and when. At least that's what I keep telling myself as I continue watching the clock for the next two weeks. Delayed gratification is still not my strong suit.


    I’m still weeding my way through Lent - both literally and metaphorically.  I was pulling dandelion weeds from the grass in the back yard when I flashed onto a memory of my great grandmother.  Granny was a West Virginia mountain woman who never traveled more than a hundred miles from her birthplace throughout her life.  She was a country midwife who raised children and chickens on her small farm.  She took care of me after school, feeding me homemade apple cake while we watched that old vampire soap Dark Shadows
      But what I remembered at that moment were the dandelion leaves.  I have a vivid image of my grandmother, barely five feet tall, bent low over the spring grass in the front yard, pulling dandelion leaves and carefully tucking them into her upfolded apron.  She gathered the leaves, boiled them and served them to me for lunch, telling me they would make me grow tall and strong. Then she pulled up the roots to make tea, noting that it was good for the digestion and the liver.  
      Today, you can buy dried dandelion root at the health food store for $12 a bottle.  Whole Foods sells dandelion leaves for an exorbitant price. Researchers are beginning to document the myriad vitamins, minerals and who knows what other good things that are present in the dandelion weed.  Granny lived to be 102, eating dandelions as a spring tonic all her life.  
     I pause in my weeding and gather some of the young fresh dandelion leaves in a basket for the kitchen.  Perhaps some of the weeds in our lives don’t need to be pulled out, they simply need to be recognized as a gift.


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