Grace Notes
A hopeful newspaper column ~ by Natalie Costanza-Chavez
Go Easy > Turtles and Light
Turtles and Light

Grace-Notes #5 –
Turtles and Light

Somewhere, something poetic must be happening. Monks pulling a tight cord tied to brown old bells ringing over a hilltop dotted with sheep and eucalyptus trees, each leaf barely green and red-veined and turning in prayer toward the day-rise.

Or classical music sweet with piano, clean white sheets worthy of Martha, edged in some sort of difficult lace, ironed neat, and pillows stacked high as though anyone can sleep on them like that, coffee in a white china cup, sugar cubes, the tinkle of a spoon – everything clean.

But this daybreak, my daybreak, is not poetic: January and still dark outside. The dog, her internal clock working better than mine, is butt-high in a swoop-stretch before I even consider footfall. The clip clank of wooden bedrails next and the top bunk slats rattle with a limber child dismounting. Whump. Thud. Fall. Boy-noise abounds and one of them uses a sheet to whip-zing his brother. Shower water running over voices, the dog chasing the balled up sheet that now needs to be washed, the radio stirring with advice, the smell of coffee a flicker of hope, blankets back like a pendulum caught mid-rise and I am up, breath high in the throat. Morning again and though the night has fallen, and risen up and away like fog, most of us are still tired somewhere deep in our bones. January and all the fa-la-la-la-la has gone away.

I breathe in and spy my day. About my business I will go. Check the paper for what is mad in the world, who is starving or hungry or hurt, who is full of vinegar and spit, and who has not changed a bit. I sip, gulp, and feed those closest to me, put milk and weather stripping on the grocery list, head out the door.

The store is open always so everyone is up. I get milk and duct tape (they don’t carry weather stripping and anything can be fixed with duct tape). The boxes of holiday cheer and peppermint have all gone in the backroom to roost until next day-after-Halloween and pink love birds are now perched beside the clementines, the snow scrapers, the mittens and hats. Valentines Day is the next big buy – as if there is nothing else to think about, nothing hard edged about the shoe-pounding rush of our days, the emotional leftovers of loss from a December gone again, or the insistent way the world just keeps on trudging on without ever letting us rest for Heaven’s sake. We’re tuckered out and trying hard to balance evenly on our heels and the balls of our feet, toes gripping and fierce. We don’t want to slip on the ice.

January can be tiresome and the bears have it all over us on this one. They hibernate. They know there is no point in looking for berries and apples when the trees are bare and the ground splinters like glass if you rap hard. They turn inward, conserve and sleep the winter off.

And perhaps, too, a part of us is trying to hibernate – and because we can’t, because we must run and balance and fetch and fix, we begin to drag. This is a culture that respects nothing about slow. Even so, our internal clocks, hard wired and as ancient as our histories, will try to still down, settle down, wind down, move low down when the days are short, darkness comes early, and the air is cold and getting colder. We need to go easy on ourselves.

We need to pray ourselves into a quiet cave, even if just for a moment. There we need to do nothing and expect nothing and only push away the edges of the day: make a clearing in the cave. Then, in our heads and in our bodies we will have made a circle for rest. Into that space God will swirl, because suddenly there is room to feel Him. Breathe deep. Refuse to beat yourself up for lists gone tickless and breezy duct-taped doors. Sleep some when you shouldn’t. Drag a little slowly in a pull it up around you. Spring will come soon with turtles and light.