Our kitchen window faces west. Buttercup Hill climbs and crests at a thin line of trees, behind which the sun falls. As the giant orb slides below the green, it graces every living thing in halos of light.
In winter, afternoons can be blinding. But with sunset now pushing toward nine o’clock, we enjoy the hours in our gardens — front, back and vegetable. We hoe weeds and use collected rainwater to nurture tender plants and newly sewn seeds. Our daughter tumbles and rolls through the tiny yellow flowers, laughing joyfully. “Do you love butter?” I ask as I hold the flower under her chin. “Why, yes, you do.” A late supper comes often now. We would rather discover the earth.
Yesterday, as we broke bread together, I looked up into the yellows and greens, dancing in the breeze. A small bird hopped in and amongst the grasses and golden petals. Watching, I realized its wings were small. Fluttering through the yellow dots that shimmered and glowed as the sun dipped below the maples and walnuts, we called out to our wee one. This was a fledgling robin!
Suddenly, the mother swooped, redirecting her babe up the hill. A baby robin! Our daughter danced with glee, declaring that she had found a piece of blue eggshell nearby. We moved from window to window, watching the youngling make its way until it settled into the shadows.
Bits of beauty, it seems, are all we have now. We do not live in fear. We live in reality. We are near enough to disaster, but God has granted us the blessed reminder of simple things. In the ordinary of maple seeds falling like spinners to the ground, our hillside has seedling maples aplenty setting in along the fences, among the grass, on the edge of any growing space that we have not turned toward in the past few days.
Simple, ordinary life. The soil reminds me that we are constantly connected both to life and to death, one feeding the other. The decay of what was once alive gives way to life again. Our cabbages will soon fill our plates. Broccoli not far behind them. Carrots and beets, spinach and lettuces are coming in. We will turn their remnants back into compost for next year’s garden.
Ordinary life. Many yearn to move past the fatigue of quarantine. I sense that, too. The ease of an unforced way of being, the opposite of vigilance. No masks, not stripping at the door and showering immediately. Fewer loads of laundry. And yet, a renewed appreciation for handwashing and not touching one’s face.
In this time of extraordinary ordinary, I have found a renewed sense of wholeness. Opening myself up to this unexpected learning, I see grace in the loudness of birdsong rather than in the clanging busy-ness of what once was ordinary. In the simplicity of keeping home, hearth, fence, creatures and growing things, a secret reveals itself. What once was monotony and a chore is sacred, life-giving. It is love, and it is life.