Friday, December 08, 2006

Keeping It Real

As I sit here at the kitchen table, steaming mug of coffee to my left, glorious Christmas tree to my right, I hear a rattling sound. I turn in the direction from which it's coming, and all I can figure is that my Deep Rock water supply is thawing and making wierd noises. Sometimes the cooler "talks" and startles me. It always happens at night, when the kids are in bed and all is quiet. From the dark recesses of the kitchen, buzzing.

But that's not what I'm hearing right now. It's as if someone is knocking on the walls of my house. And then I realize--someone is! I had poured birdseed into a wall-mounted feeder earlier this week, and if I turn my head and glance out to the back patio, I see birds everywhere. They've found my treat for them. Some are fluttering their wings madly, attempting to get every last morsel from the feeder.

There's nothing unusual about birds feeding in people's backyards. Nothing at all. But at this particular moment, hearing and seeing them is a gift, a reminder. Just last night, I sat in my big purple chair, feeling overwhelmed. Amidst the hustle and bustle of buying gifts, wrapping boxes to mail, writing and mailing holiday cards, caring for sick kids, listening (grudgingly) to their complaints about whatever, planning and fixing dinner, talking with Max for the umpteenth time about why settling for less when doing more with minimal effort is not an admirable quality, and trying to find enough hours in the day to work at my job so that I can feed my family, a sort of gentle melancholy overcame me. A few moments of solace, just me and my art supply catalog (when I die, someone is going to inherit an amazing collection of art supplies and pens), and I was able to get up and face the world again, which at that time, translated into giving Bella a bath.

But when I awoke this morning, I still felt somehow less than. Than what, I can't say. I got the kids ready for school, and here I sit. And then came the birds. And I realized what I was missing were those moments that present themselves on any given day, those where I notice the world around me. I like getting glimpses into lives that don't include me, but which surround me. Like when I notice the light of a winter's day. I love light on snow, the way it makes me feel, as if all is right with the world. It's a different light than the one in summer, and one I infinitely prefer for its softness, its glow. Or when I get to witness one of those rare moments when Bella is still, as she is when she's drawing a masterpiece to put into my Christmas stocking. Her face is one of intense concentration, and when her task is completed, the sparkle in her eyes is brighter than the Hope Diamond. Or when I'm in the car, listening to NPR, and a song is playing that I don't know but absolutely must hear through to the end. Unless I'm on a schedule, I'll pull over somewhere just to listen.

Those quiet moments are what I treasure, and lately, life's just been moving so fast that those moments are passing me by, unnoticed. Until the birds. In the short time it's taken me to write this, they've emptied the feeder and moved on. But I'll fill it up again, make some suet as my little holiday gift to them. And tonight as I sit in the darkened family room, enjoying our beautiful Christmas tree, I'm going to squint my eyes as I admire the lights. I did that as a little girl, and the way the lights became extra-twinkly is one of my favorite memories. Crossing my eyes also distorts the little lights, but I don't like to do that because even though I know better, I still hear Mom warning, "They'll stay like that!" So I just squint.

I hope you find some of your own squinty moments during this busy holiday season.