Time and the Peonies
Aside from family birthdays and anniversaries, I am terrible at keeping track of dates. I do calculations to figure out the year we moved, the last time we traveled, the year we planted that apple tree or when my husband had surgery on his shoulder. But I remember the year I started blogging: 2012, January, at a coffee shop in Cottage Grove, Oregon. It’s so random, but I remember the birth of this space as if it were another child. The way I form regrets and should-haves around my writing is very much like my reflections on parenting, and I have to purpose to not look back too much. I have great kids, despite my failures. I’ve written some words I’m happy with, despite my short-comings. And both of those things are impossible without God’s help.
This blog has always been a place for me to work out what I think. Strange, I know, to do this “publicly”, but I could easily be a hermit in the woods who forgets what human voice is like, even my own; writing my thoughts helps me speak, and doing either of those things publicly keeps me "close to the earth” and human, humus, like soil. I can almost embrace the fact that embarrassment, or the potential for embarrassment, is good for me. I can almost let go of my pride.
(I have never liked the word “blog” or the terms blogging or blogger. There has to be something better, more beautiful, more reflective of what’s happening here than a mash-up of “web” and “log”. Logs are boring calculations of time spent, and I’d rather think this space is a collection of narratives, released and redeemed from the inner stories I tell myself. You have ideas; let’s create a new term!)
Tonight we’ll have people over to eat a simple meal with us and discuss ideas around what it means to be created in the image of God. We did this in January and intended to do it each month of the year, but it’s always hard to put things on the calendar. It’s easier to think about it as a future, far-off thing we might do someday when we have the time and the house is ready and the kids are occupied. Our future-selves are always less busy and more hospitable. This way of tracking time doesn’t work and my present-self knows this, so I am filling in the dates on an already full calendar because my mind forgets what my spirit knows: time stretches to fit every good thing and we can choose to have the time.
We can also choose how we think about time. Twice in the last week I’ve admonished people who were grumbling about some future thing they had to do, something they were dreading. You’re not doing it now, so stop ruining the moment with your grumbling about the future. In certain seasons, that feeling of dread has come to me first thing in the morning, as my eyes adjust to a fresh 24 hours and my mind flicks through a rolodex of to-dos. It’s not the way to wake-up. Revelatory for me has been grasping the concept that if I faithfully do the things I must do, there will be time to do the things I want to do, without guilt. My husband doesn’t understand this struggle I have with guilt—I can’t sit down to read or write in the middle of the day because people are working hard out there in the world—but it’s always been there. I’m glad he doesn’t understand; it means he thinks it’s silly to have guilt over those things, and that’s the validation I need. I am silly.
The peony gives all its gifts and leaves nothing behind but greenery. Every bud blooms, every petal is enjoyed, until they fall to the ground outside or fall all at once in a sudden flouse to the table, dropping whole flowers in one descent from the vase. Even the way they land on my old, scarred up table is beautiful. I can’t describe my love for the peony but I bury my face in the dark pink ones, breathe deeply, and debate whether to bring them all inside or leave a few outside. This is my biggest concern today.
I wish peonies grew all year but they don’t, and this fact of time and seasons and quotidian rhythm prompts me to enjoy the heck out of them right now. Right now, as I throw out an imperfect “log” about time in this space on the “web”—the space I neglect because people are working hard out there in the world and the to-do lists are fluttering in the wind.
The peonies won’t last forever.
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