May You Live All The Days Of Your Life

The beast enjoying the fresh snow
The beast enjoying the fresh snow

“May you live all the days of your life.” ~Jonathan Swift

I love this quote. It’s so simple yet eloquent and profound. I mean, every day that you’re alive, you could argue that you’re living. But are you truly living? What does it mean to live versus to be alive? There have been plenty of days in my life when I’ve gone through the motions. I existed. And I was alive in only the most basic sense. I wasn’t living fully, deliberately, or honestly. Living honestly lies in experiencing the senses, feeling your emotions, promoting your consciousness. It lies in the awareness of the present moment and in appreciation for it. It lies in a daily choice to be open, enthusiastic, and mindful.

A few weeks ago, we were buried under February snow. It was cold. I spent most of the month of February this year as I do every year…holed up in my bed under blankets, sipping tea, binge watching shows on Netflix, scarcely moving from my spot, trying to convince myself I was not depressed. February is my annual, 28-day hibernation. One day, though, we had a lovely respite from overcast skies. The snow had stopped, the clouds had cleared the way for swaths of blue, and something called to me to live.

It was 10 degrees when I left my house, bundled in my ski gear, wearing snowshoes, and hauling additional gear. I had no problem coaxing the dog who had been housebound with me out onto the open space for an expedition. Her enthusiasm and joy kept me moving on each time I stopped to catch my breath, enjoy the view, and question my sanity. I was alone and, with no one to challenge me, this walk that would normally take me 15 minutes on a summer day took me close to 25. I was in no hurry. I had no plans other than this one.

Just a girl, her dog, and a sled
Just a girl, her dog, and a sled

When I reached the first hill, I kicked off my Crescent Moon snowshoes and began climbing. Against all logic and better judgment, I’d hauled my son’s bright yellow Zipfy sled out there with me, fully intent on some perpetrating some childlike behavior. You see, the day before school had been cancelled due to snow, and I had watched longingly from my kitchen window as some neighborhood children climbed that normally silent hill and put their mark upon the pristine landscape. My sons sled a lot in our neighborhood during snow season, nearly every afternoon when the weather allows it, but I have never joined them. I’m the mom. I have responsibilities. They would think it was too weird. And I am getting on in years and might break some bones, right?

Upon reaching the top of the hill, I threw the sled down and climbed on. My dog was poised in front of me. She’s a border collie. She loves to herd things. She planned on herding me all the way down the hill. When I finally summoned the nerve, I inched forward with my feet and began sliding down that very steep hill. If it felt steep on the climb up, it felt steeper on the ride down. The dog bounded in and out of my path as I careened down the slope picking up speed. Before I realized it, I had neared the bottom of the hill and noticed what I had not seen before. Those little stinkers had built a ramp. I hit it at full velocity, whooshed into the air, and dropped some obscenities as the sled and I collided with the ground with enough force that I wondered if my neighbor felt the tremor in her home. My face was covered in snow. I felt snow down my shirt. I surrendered into the earth and laughed at the absurdity of a nearly 47-year-old woman collapsed by herself on a deserted sledding hill at noon on a Friday. What kind of crazy woman does that?

I stayed on that hill for about a half an hour longer, hiking up repeatedly so I could retrace the path the children had carved out for me as well as fashion a few lanes of my own. The dog challenged my efforts, lunging at me sporadically while I lurched and swayed my way down the hill in an attempt to avoid running her over. Each time I wiped out. Each run found me increasingly covered in snow. When I’d had enough, I sat and began petting the dog, noticing the chunks of snow in my soaking wet hair, breathing steadily and consciously, feeling gratitude for the time, energy, health, and means to spend an hour of my day outdoors, frivolously free from the mundane.

Seeing that quote today reminded me of my sledding adventure. We adults don’t indulge in living often enough. Swallowed by routine and obligation, we stagnate. We place responsibility over fun, whimsy, and novelty. To make this earthly journey worthwhile, though, we need to remember to let go on occasion. Joy is not just for children and border collies. We need to have our own sledding days, to bear witness to the beauty of nature, to smell the moisture in the air, to feel the sun on our face and the snow down our shirt, to taste the blood from our lip when we bite it on a hard landing, and to laugh out loud at ourselves. That is living.

sNOW Day

Snowball and dog hang time
Snowball and dog hang time

Saturday, I heard rumblings that we might be expecting snow. This is not unusual for Denver. At our mile-high elevation, we receive April snow showers instead of the April rain showers many other American cities receive. Sunday night, though, I started hearing the word snowstorm bandied about. Although I’m completely okay with the spring snows we get here that tend to be quickly followed by a nice warm up back into our regularly scheduled warm temperatures, I’m a little less than pleased with the thought of a snowstorm on a school day. So far this year, we had not had one snow day and my boys (knock on wood) have hardly missed a day of school. With just a little over a week’s time passing between the end of Spring Break and now, I was not interested in more together time with my boys just yet. After all, we’ll be together all summer break and that starts for us in about six weeks.

On Monday night at 9 p.m. as I was getting ready to leave a friend’s house, an email alert popped up. It was an advance school cancellation by our principal. After reviewing the weather reports, she had decided to call school off because of a predicted 8-12 inches of blowing snow. Ugh. I headed home as heavy, wet snowflakes began to fall, appalled that just that morning I had walked four miles with our dog on a dry hiking trail in nearly 70 degree weather. When I walked in the door, I told our boys the news. They were beyond thrilled. And as the reality of the situation began to sink in, I relaxed a little knowing that at least I would not have to make lunches or trudge out early in the morning. I told the boys not to even think of waking me up before 7:30, and we all went to sleep.

At 5:25 the door slammed behind hubby as he headed to catch the early morning train into the city, and I was up. It was one of those morning alarm situations in which you realize you will not be getting back to sleep. Resigned to my fate, I picked up my iPhone and checked my messages. By 5:50, both boys were up. I looked outside and snow was indeed falling. We had barely three inches on the ground and I wondered if all the school administrators who had cancelled school (every district in the Denver metro area had cancelled school by late Monday night based on the forecast) were drinking their morning coffee at home and kicking themselves thinking about a summer vacation that would now start one day later for no good reason.

Throughout the day as the snow fell off and on, the boys played quietly with their iPads or the Xbox. We worked ahead on school work a little together, enjoyed a laid back lunch, and then we settled into my bed to watch episodes of Arrested Development. We did very little all day. It was quiet. We were restful and mellow. We never got out of our lounge clothes and pajamas. We decompressed. Around 4 p.m. Luke ran over to play in the neighbor’s house, and I sent Joe out into the backyard in his snow clothes to amuse the dog who had refused to step foot outside in the inclement weather all day. As Joe played with Ruby in the yard, I sat on my bedroom floor looking down on him from the upstairs window. I was completely in the moment. And as my now almost 12 year old son played in the falling snow with his border collie, tossing snowballs that she tried to catch, I got teary eyed. In my yard I could still see the three year old who would play in the snow long after his friends had become too cold and gone inside. Where has the time gone? These precious days with my boys, the ones where they actually want to curl up and watch television with me or roll around in the snow with their dog, will likely become fewer and father between as they get older and become more involved with their own lives. So yesterday I stopped and made a conscious choice to soak up the sights, smells, sounds, and peace of the snow day I had not wanted so I will be able to savor it forever in my memory when Joe and Luke have moved on.

Although I had gone into the snow day with a firmly resonating noooooooooo echoing in my head, it turns out that it was exactly what I needed. Three or four years ago, I would have grudgingly made my way through the day, upset that I’d missed my workout and my peace and quiet, counting the minutes until school started the next day. Luckily, I am an older and wiser person now. I’m grateful that I’ve finally gotten to a place in my life where I can soften a bit and appreciate the here and now in full knowledge that in another minute it will be just a memory.