“Come look! There are, like, 20 balloons out today!”
I walk to the window and peer out through the tired faux-wood blinds. The hot air balloons are hovering on the horizon, a chaotic bouquet against the morning sky. There are perhaps ten balloons but the sight is impressive nonetheless so I have the good grace not to correct the kids’ counting or their grammar.
I love this about our new town. Not just the daily flight of hot air balloons but the way it is always a cause for celebration. We moved here twenty months ago, which should be enough to get settled in. It is, after all, enough to get a child through a grade and a half of school, plus two summers. It’s long enough to discover the best grocery store, a favorite coffee shop and great new friends. It is not quite long enough to stop missing the best things from our old town but perhaps that’s the danger of living deeply–there is always something to be missed when change comes.
The balloons never get old though. Neighbors post pictures on Instagram and Facebook. My daughter’s reading class once took a ten minute break to watch a balloon land in the field near their school. There is something enthralling about them and for a few brief seconds I can really believe that they are sailing to Oz.
There are also the prairie dogs. They, too, are a daily cause for celebration. We watch them scamper and play and listen to their chirped warnings. On a walk last winter we laughed at how their tails move when they chirp. Up and down, up and down, in rhythm to their fast paced barks. We joke that their tails are levers and this is really what makes the sound.
There was the time when, in the dead of a dreary, windy February, when we were in the midst of that general unease and anxiety that February brings on, I told my husband to “consider the prairie dogs.” He is not a church person but he still understood the biblical reference and we laughed. He has suggested that we make a poster that says, “Consider the prairie dogs,” to hang on the blank wall by our sliding glass door. Like this, maybe?
After reading I’m in Charge of Celebrations last spring, my daughter started keeping her own celebration diary. It includes things like seeing a double rainbow, watching a bunny come into the yard and feeding the squirrels at a rest area in Utah. (My list of celebrations would include the fact that the rest area gave out squirrel food, because people who turn a desert rest stop into a party are good people.)
School is starting next week and I am a bit depressed about this. My work time will improve greatly–right now I’m barely hanging in there. And it will be easier to carve out the space that I crave. Plus the house might stay clean for longer than 5 minutes. I am trying to remind myself of these things because really, I would happily extend summer by another 6 or 7 months.
I suppose that’s always the challenge: change hovers right around the edges of all of life’s beautiful moments. A couple weeks ago we got the diagnoses that our cat has stomach cancer. This was not a surprise because she is old and anyone could see she is not healthy. Still, it is one thing to know something inside and another to hear it said out loud. After two tearful conversations on the phone with the vet, we decided not to pursue any treatment.
I explained it to my daughter this way, “Papoo is really sick. We have some time but not a lot so we’re just going to love her the best we can.” Of course, then we both cried and spent the afternoon cuddling with the cat. This pretty much sums up life itself, doesn’t it? It is always joy mingled with loss, celebration mingled with grief.
In The Upright Thinkers, Leonard Mlodinow talks briefly about the invention of time-keeping. Until the invention of the clock in the 1330’s, a day was measured in twelve equal intervals of daylight. This meant that an “hour” was longer or shorter depending on the season. Rather than having more hours of daylight in the summer, as we do now, there was more daylight in an hour.
I felt envious of these people. By all indications, they didn’t have much need for a standard measure of time. This hints at a life unfettered by appointments and errands and conference calls with people across the globe. I wondered if they found it easier to live in the present, a skill most of us lack in a world where clocks are king.
But of course time still moved on, kids still grew up, seasons still changed and animals still died. This is what unfettered joy does for us, though. It allows us to lengthen the amount of time in our hours. It gives more weight to the celebrations of life than the griefs, until those milliseconds of laughter overtake the minutes of sadness.
This morning it was still dark when I woke up, a sure sign that fall is on its way. Change is hovering, again. But celebrations are hovering too. They are floating there on the horizon, bursts of bright joy just waiting to be noticed. Time itself, offering not a way to count the hours but a way to measure the minutes. Depth, not length. And us just pressing ahead, loving the best we can.
I’m writing again today with the other #wholemama folks who are thinking about celebration. I jumped in late to this because that’s how summer goes here but it’s been such a joy to read and think with other readers, writers and thinkers. Don’t forget to take a look!