Small Things



As I sit most mornings, in the rocking chair my father got my mother on their first anniversary in the Black Forest in Germany in 1960, looking out over the valley below me, I’m filled with thoughts about the day, about the state of our world, or the ceiling bay I need to continue putting up, or the window frame I need to finish. I’m filled with feelings, too, about those things, and about my family, about my friends both old and new, and the weather, and God.


I weigh my options: I could start with the window frame and move to the ceiling, or I could tackle the ceiling first, which is the more difficult and frustrating of the two, and end the day on an easier note. I could spend the entire day building the house, or I could end the build a few hours early and spend more time with my kids. I could offer to pick Will up and take him to the county library so that Jenna and Belle can go straight to the grocery store after school.


I look out on the dogwood tree I planted where Tillie, our Australian Cattle Dog, died last year. She still stares at me from the screen of my laptop, which I use to write these reflections (see the picture here on my website). This morning, as Jenna and I woke up to the rising sun in the east off the shoulder of Mt. Spokane, we talked about our lives being filled with so many unexpected things these past few years, and as we do so often these days, we both sighed and shook our heads. How could it be – how could it be that we have done so much and not fallen apart from sheer exhaustion? The move, the pandemic, the political situation, the build, Ukraine…


And how could we be so lucky, so fortunate, that none of us has been seriously injured in the build, or gotten ill, that we haven’t gone completely broke, that we still love each other and our kids still love us, that in spite of its incompletion, we have a place to call home, to wake up to in the mornings, hot coffee in the pot, bread for the toaster, vitamins waiting on the butcher block counter? How could it be so?


So much of life for so many is unfair, unkind, and goes unmentioned in the news and blogs and updates and posts. So much of the suffering of the world goes on in silence, away from the cameras, out of the limelight, beyond the electric blue hue of a computer monitor or the achingly bright screens of a cell phone. Just the other day, Will asked me if God knows our thoughts, knows when we’re sad. I told him that God has big eyes, that he sees all things, even our thoughts, and that nothing happens without him noticing.


Just the other day a beautiful blue bird with an orange breast, half the size of my fist, flew into our window and broke its neck. I didn’t see it happen. I only noticed its limp little body on the ground beneath the window (that needs a frame), lying still, almost peacefully, among the granite rocks and tufts of grass. “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”


I look out the window to the valley below, then at my watch. I’ll be waking Will up in 15 minutes. Belle and Jenna have already left for school. I still have my vitamins to take, and I’ll need to make Will’s smoothie, and run through the morning’s math problems with him, which he won’t like, and then get ready myself.


This is the measure of my day today, and most days. These little things, these quiet thoughts, these private concerns, these small joys, are the substance of my life. Or perhaps they are just the substance of my mornings. There is still so much that could yet happen, and no doubt will. I’m still in this rocking chair, after all, in my pajamas, coffee on the sill.


The blue bird was buried yesterday behind the wood shed. Will and Jenna dug a hole, said a prayer, then went on about their day. Almost as if it had never happened.

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