Already and not yet, but the hummingbirds are coming back soon

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Earlier today, the girls and I pumped our legs on the swings under a mostly cloudless canopy of blue. Some trees hinted at turning green; others not at all yet. We startled a snake walking to a picnic table to set down our water bottles near the playground at the woods. We unzipped our coats in the sun; put them back on in the shade. Alice picked me a trout lily because I’m her “best mom.” I accepted it gratefully, but left it wilting on the picnic table because I’m not the best mom. I’m tired, grateful for siblings who’ll play when I want to sit.

For a while the playground was theirs alone, but two moms strolled over with toddlers. I busied myself at the table with a pen and a notebook. I tried not to hear their reviews of weight-loss shakes and gym memberships. I regretted not bringing a caffeinated tea, and my mind flitted from my notebook to the sky — the blue sky, obstructed by leafless trees. I want a big blue sky, I wrote in my notebook. A big blue sky. And I want to run. […]

Do not be afraid … of the word ‘calling’

We wore our winter hats and our spring jackets to the playground yesterday. I carried a thick book about callings, whatever that means, and sat on the merry-go-round to read a few sentences between the girls hollering for me to watch this, look at that. I chose a Dorothy Sayers piece about artists being the closest to understanding vocation; it was a good choice. Artists make money so we can create, she writes, and in that, we’re doing holy work. Others earn a paycheck so they can live, she writes. Yes, yes, I nodded. “For the artist there is no distinction between work and living. His work is his life, and the whole of his life …” Yes, Dorothy, I’m an artist.

After about an hour of this mental exercise of counting children from where I sat and molding my interpretation of vocation two or three sentences at a time, dirty-mouthed teenagers drove us into the woods.

“Look! Trout lily leaves!” I cried, peeling some autumnal leaves from the wildflower’s spotted ones. “Just like Mary in Secret Garden,” Alice piped in.

[…]

‘I have no idea what comes next,’ I say. ‘Samesies,’ Mary would’ve said

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Master of the Tiburtine Sibyl, Crucifixion, 1485; Detroit Institute of Art

Right now, the youngest is napping. Alice lays on her belly under a still-leafless maple; Violet sits cross-legged beside her with a stuffed rabbit in her lap. They’re so far out from my spot on the front stoop that I can’t hear them: this moment is parenting’s high-water mark. An Eastern phoebe’s returned to nest under our deck; bugs fly by and I’ve forgotten their names. Daffodils are three inches above ground. The world goes on knowing what to do and when to do it, but I’m on the stoop, wondering.

I carry around all these possibilities in my imagination. I stack them up on the dresser top beside me while I fold clothes, or lay on the windowsill while I wash dishes. I toy with moving to a house we would own in the city; moving to a suburb for the schools. I stack up the open-enrollment deadline for schools of choice; I consider visiting buildings I’m not excited about. Kindergarten open house and my will-be second-grader’s Tums in her pocket. Writing this book about “radical faith” with someone who once lived in an intentional community, and wondering how no one’s picked up yet that my past is much more predictable. I read tough books and wash a dozen loads of towels, toddler leggings, sweatshirts, and pillow cases every week.

All these possibilities, I carry around.

Aren’t humans the worst? Aren’t we, to be thinking of this while the world sings the Doxology; while flowers come up and buds open?

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