Snow has been falling on Boise since Monday morning. I've had enough of wintry weather, of ice and snow, of required down coats. Eric spent several hours over the weekend scraping and shoveling the driveway, ridding it of the built-up ice I'd allowed to accumulate. It annoyed me to watch his handiwork disappear under more snow.
I ran some errands after work, so by the time I was able to get outside to shovel the snow, it was dark. Crisply cold, though not bone chilling. I wore layers, I wore boots, I had sensible gloves and I was ready to do battle with the snow. And then, something magic happened. The snow had stopped falling, and the sky and air were clear as I stepped outside my back door to clear the deck. Moonlight lit the new snow, piled in small glowing drifts that highlighted leaves and branches of shrubs, the curved tops of the fenceboards, the arching beautiful limbs of my Russian Olive trees. And in that moment, all of my annoyance fell away and I saw, really saw, all of that beauty. I set aside the snow shovel, and spent 40 minutes wandering the streets around my house. I admired the flat sweep of the golf course greens, the way the moonlight made the pretty bridge over the empty canal seem to be made of icing sugar. And as I wandered, I was reminded of how that flat expanse of golf course looked before this new snow, with week-old snow and icy clumps of tree sap and the ugly evidence of flocks of Canadian geese. I remembered the icy canes of my climbing rose, which on Sunday looked almost surely to be dead--and marveled that tonight they glittered and shone with as much beauty as the rose has when in full bloom in June, the snowy splendor in moonlight a rival for June's emerald greenery and lush blooms.
When we are young, and sometimes when we are older and caught up in periods of hapless nostalgia tinged with depression, we are often a little preoccupied with firsts. First kiss, first lover, first job, first...uhm, marriage? Whoops, outside voice. I avoid the mildly pejorative tone of "obsessed"--but the word is often accurate. Firsts are special, they hold sway in our memories, they are lit with the soft light of naivete, a freshness and a glorious (it often seems when we are older looking back on those moments) absence of expectation. And it's clear that all of those early experiences can imprint and shape us, in ways both good and bad. In ways that may or may not require extensive therapy. So, yes--I understand and appreciate why there is a reason that "the firsts" are the topic of so much literature, why they preoccupy us as they do, why we sometimes long to have a moment back so that we can relive it or share it with someone new.
But as my time on the planet continues, I find myself longing to perceive and appreciate moments of beauty in the now, in the flawed glory of a moment, with people and objects that have withstood the tests life has thrown their way. At our best, we get up from tough experiences and allow ourselves the grace of softness, as I've written about both here and in the essays I'm working on these days. I seek, and am learning to recognize, the people who have also uncovered this truth. Wisdom and experience can sharpen and enrich our experience of beauty, of this I am convinced. But not if we are forever looking backward, comparing this moment, the moment we are in now, to a softly lit moment caught in a bubble of amber in our memory.
When spring comes, this harsh winter will have taken a toll on the flowers in my gardens. I'm prepared for that, for the replanting of those spaces with new lovely things that I will find with Eric in one of our favorite Boise nurseries. We are already animatedly discussing where to plant vegetables, how to make the most of the sunny corners of the yard on Roosevelt Street. And that is how this garden will become our garden. It is one of the simplest pleasures, creating a well-tended garden around a home that you live in through the cycles of seasons. Gardens, and the tending of them, the ways that they change and evolve and surprise, are one of the pleasures of staying, at least for people who love dirt. It is a well-worked and familiar literary tool, the garden as a metaphor for a life, but it is endlessly resonant for me.
I'm reminded tonight not to fast-forward to spring, not to mourn the perfection of some earlier season, not to presuppose the amount of destruction that a long and hard winter will have caused. There will be time enough to assess and plan when spring comes. There will be time enough to clear the ground and find the perfect plants for this new version of our garden. For now, I'm going to spend a few more minutes admiring the beauty that is all around me this very moment.
Be well and happy in your corner of the globe.