by Jnana Hodson
Much of the delight in life comes as surprises, especially when you’re paying attention. Moreover, they’re often of a very short time, a fleeting breath. Even when you’re anticipating an event, a certain unpredictability remains. You might be watching the sinking sun along with a bank of clouds, for instance, but a slight shift in conditions can spell the difference between a spectacular sunset and a dull glow in a woolly pile. And that glorious sunset, when it arises, changes second by second before dimming within five minutes.
The same can be said of family life or even a party or artistic endeavor. Much of the time, though, we’re too engaged in other matters to revel in the brief thrills. We need a bit of openness — what some call margins — in our daily activities to allow for such curiosity and wonder.
After the long, slow months of winter where I live, signs of quickening are appearing. In the early morning, the male cardinals, who have been singing defiantly from mid-January, now erupt with an insistent joyfulness, inciting other birds to join in, with hints of what’s just ahead. I haven’t been out in the woods after dusk, but any day now, the peepers will begin their sparkling chorus in their vernal ponds — the pools that will shrink to nothing by midsummer.
In our own yard, the first of the spring ephemerals (how I love that word, as well as the phrase “vernal pond” — they’re such fun on the tongue!) are now blooming, however timidly, even though most of the yard’s still covered in six inches of snow or more. (And rapidly melting.) I could present a checklist of what I expect will follow, but there are no promises — winter takes its toll, after all.
For me, this has been the first winter in a long, long time in which I can admit to suffering cabin fever. I’d have to go back to my “sabbatical” of writing more than a quarter century ago, or the ashram a decade-and-a-half before that, to find a stretch in which I didn’t have the demands of an office away from home weighing upon me. That is, requiring me to leave the house daily for hours on end. Admittedly, this winter hasn’t been completely job-free: November and December were still quite busy on that front. But the New Year turned toward retirement and new focus. What I’m experiencing is not boredom — far from it. I’ve had a full plate of writing and reading, for one thing, and I’ve enjoyed more evening and weekend social activities than I’d been able to attend in, well, it seems like forever. Rather, this strain of cabin fever feels like a time of recharging, getting ready to burst forth with the warming weather, in any number of surprising ways, if I’m lucky. So you see, this affliction is actually a kind of luxury. For now.