Thursday, March 13, 2014

Miracles in the starving time

It's maple sugaring time in western Massachusetts

Late winter, early spring, in New England, is a time of wild confusion. It starts when the trees begin to glow red with sap at their tips. Then I notice the return of bird noise: the whole world is waking up. Some of us wake up confused, aroused, foul tempered, or hungry, or all of these. It's not just me.

The way to get through the starving time in western Massachusetts is by laying in reserves: not just of provisions but of personal vitality. I move, and gather sunlight, while I can, every day, even if a short march through burning sleet is the best I can manage. Only now, as my world thaws, does my faith in the natural world---to feed me again, next spring---quicken. It is not so much that I doubt as that belief is suspended for the winter: dormant, not dead.

This weekend, we had our friends Julie and Reggie over, so we got to see them for the first time since we married them, last year. I make gooey vegetarian lasagna. We eat every kind of forbidden junk food, get a little tipsy, and talk about our families. It's very therapeutic.

Reggie asked me whether I believe in miracles. My answer was full of cultural relativism---that's what you get when you come to me with your pastoral issues. I told her that when I was in the hospital, just after back surgery, it helped me to bring to mind the faces of the people who wished me well. Does it work to ask? Yes, but not in the way you might think.

It's been just over three months since I went through spinal fusion surgery: my full and speedy recovery is timed to arrive with the longer and warmer days. Friends coming for dinner tomorrow, have gotten me here, one week at a time, by showing up, even on the Thursday nights that I couldn't cook for them. When Kevin had his hands full, caring for me, they brought food and company. Last week when they came in the door, I realized how important this was, this gathering of four guys to eat sandwiches once a week and check in. Even on the weeks when I felt hopeless. Especially those.

Some miracles are hard to bring about, but some of them happen without our having to do anything at all. I'm certainly run down on vitamin D stores, and I'm positively craving fresh spring greens, but the sun is returning. I have my practices in place for capturing the goodness while it lasts, making it last. No human sacrifice necessary.

Not that I want to continue coasting on zero effort. I'm moving past the couch bound stages of healing into active trudging, and occasional artistry. Tomorrow, for dinner with the guys, I'm making a mojo criollo from leftover orange juice and fresh oregano, to marinate a ham steak, and roasting potatoes in freshly rendered suet; I've still got lots of kale in the freezer. I might even make a pudding. It's how I like to say, I'm glad you've come back.

Image credit: BugMan50/Flickr