First Week of Spring

The return to frigid weather in Vermont on Sunday has indeed restored the snow-tube run to near ideal conditions. So Monday morning, before the sun turns the course to slush, may be the last good tubing of the season. I will be sliding. I hope you can join me.

Spring came on Monday to the Northern Hemisphere but here in the North Country of New Hampshire it still feels a ways off. Maybe this is what they meant when the locals told me, “The winters here are very long.” 

For sure, not as long as they used to be. Everyone here will tell you how high the snow drifts used to be and how this is the warmest and “worst” winter in memory, at least for us lovers of snow. All week I’ve watched the remnants of snow disappear on the front lawn across the street. The grass gray and covered with dark leaves this early morning. The hills above town purple and red with dabs of dark fir. It still feels like months before we’ll see the likes of the bright yellow daffodils now blooming in my sister’s garden in Maryland. 

Winter in fact did arrive last week in the blast of our biggest winter storm of the season and just in time for a visit from my nephew and niece and a most marvelous week to play in the snow, skiing, sledding and snowshoeing. 

They left on Sunday and in this first week of spring, I haven’t yet been ready to move on and let go of  winter. So before returning to work on Monday morning I met my friend Jay for a few last tube runs down the hill at his farm.  

I look out the kitchen window this early morning and the sky is clear – such a rare gift here in the North where the sky is so often blanketed in thick gray clouds. It’s a place where you have to seize the moment when the sun is out and hit the slopes one last time before tomorrow’s rain comes. 

Last week, Judy died. Doug called me yesterday to let me know he’ll begin hospice care in two weeks. I don’t know what to do with such news. How to grieve, how prepare for the death of such friends. All the quiet, beyond-words grief for the love, gratitude, grace in the particular gifts of such friends. It aches and pulls, drips wet down my face this morning as well.

I first met Judy when I was eight, and she, the new associate pastor at my family’s church. A lifetime later, we met again when Judy was on the church conference staff in New York where I served my first congregation. Another lifetime, and she had moved into a retirement community in Seattle. Ten years ago she had a major stroke that left her unable to speak. I visited her that week in the hospital and left a note at her bedside that I had come. Her sister, who I’d never met, texted me, Who are you?  

Who was Judy to me? My pastor, my colleague, my friend…. Someone who knew my name….Someone who had walked with me in significant and particular ways in some of the key seasons of my life….Someone who was important to me…..Someone I loved.  

I remember the lunches we shared in the dining room in Assisted Living. She stumbled to express the words she wanted to say as I listened, tried to understand and chattered on. And though it was frustrating and maddening for her not to be able to say what she wanted to, I also knew that whatever we wanted to share together was beyond what her wordlessness and all my chattering-on could ever express.

Several years ago, Judy passed on to me her clerical stoles that had been gifted to her by the church communities she had served. There is one particular one, a bright red quilted stole, that I particularly treasure and wear on Pentecost Sunday and moments for celebration. The story of that stole has been lost to time, but the love it carries remains.

Doug is my friend who found church in a boat on Sunday mornings and showed me the way of courage and confidence to step off the dock and learn how to sail. Out on the great sea of Lake Union in Seattle, we spent hours together as he taught me to jibe and tack while talking of the imponderables and impossibilities of church and God and the lessons that sailing provides to carry us through life. 

We all leave a wake when we die, Stephen Jenkinson wrote in Die Wise, And we ride on the wakes of those who have gone before us. 

Perhaps I’ll always long for one more day.

One more slide down the tube-run at the farm.

One more loop through the forest,

one more hike up the trail,

one more run down the slope. 

Today, bright blue and crisp, the dawn of a day to seize. I’ll head out for a few last hours to hit the trail.

Not yet ready to say goodbye. 

One thought on “First Week of Spring”

  1. It’s so hard to say good-bye, yes. I said goodbye to my dear friend Linda last week at the end of a 3-year battle with lung cancer. She taught me a thing or two about looking disease in the face, in defiance.

    Spring came here to Santa Fe on the wings of clouds and snow and a promise of snowmelt to replenish the streams that drought had left dry beds.

    I do love reading about your take on loss and spring and new life in the last snows.


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