Never Alone

Blacky, Flopsy, Oreo, and Lacy roost for a winter night's dream
I zip up my jacket and pull on my boots. The patio slate and grass are slick with ice—the sky black as pitch. Even Mars and my flashlight can’t penetrate the frigid, thick atmosphere. When will I see the Big Dipper and Orion again?
Watch your step, I coach myself. Home alone, I take no risks as my eyes adjust to consuming darkness. I know the lay of the land, every dip and rise. Still, walking downhill to the henhouse is dodgy, more so than uphill.
Midway, I pause and gaze into heaven’s vault with a sense of awe. I am tempted to fear the unknown, feel miniscule in the whelming silence. The only sound is my breath. 
How many billions of people inhabit this blessed Earth, breathe in oxygen, exhale carbon dioxide? What malevolent and merciful creatures occupy God’s firmament?
Unfathomable.
Here I stand, yards away from our humble henhouse and four girls who depend upon me for their food, water, and shelter. If I were to fall, struck down in the night, no one would know. What help is a cell phone if you can’t pull it from your pocket?
A loving presence comforts me with a kiss of wind upon my face. “You are never alone.”
I know that voice.
Since my retired husband usually opens and closes the chicken chute, I had forgotten this divine visitation in winter’s deep cold.  
I look our hens in the eye and tell them about God’s kiss. They don’t seem interested, squawking and cocking their heads this way and that. “Where’s Mel?” they ask.
A storyteller should better know her audience.
When Mel calls from the road after seven, I relay my experience.
“Oh yeah,” he says, “there’s something about walking alone in a winter night that makes you tremble. Did you take your cell phone with you?”
“Yes. Don’t worry. A winter night is different from summer, don’t you think?”
“Hmmm,” Mel replies.
I don’t press. He’s probably tired from driving.
“Come to think of it, yes.”
“What is it?” I ask.
“I don’t know. It’s just more… profound.”
“That’s the word.”
“I’ll call same time tomorrow,” he says.
He’s scouting northern Michigan and the U.P. for summer vacation destinations, glad for coffee breaks and every minute of his independence.
He calls again as promised. “You’ve got see Harbor Springs and the drive to Marquette. It’s beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“That’s what I’ve heard. Are you going up to Keweenaw tomorrow?”
“Oh yes. I want to see the Monastery in Eagle Harbor. I hope the weather holds out. It was 42 degrees today. They’re in a thaw up here.”
“We reached 50 degrees. I couldn’t believe all the stars out tonight.”
Mel asks about the kittens and hens.
“They want to know when you’re coming home.”
“Tuesday as planned.”
Dear Reader, I’m relieved. That’s three more days and nights alone to write and do as I please.
Well, no one’s ever all alone. But you know what I mean.

What Life Is Like




Browsing through Borders Books twenty years ago, I chanced upon a writer’s delight. Famous faces appeared on cards with a quote and their signature. The words captured life unique to the luminary.
      Did these folk the likes of Alert Einstein and Jane Austen know their convictions would influence future hungry minds? I recall Austen’s lines most intriguing. “Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?”
      It struck me odd, for I don’t perceive Austen’s female heroines as impulsive pleasure seekers. Austen’s novels develop patient women, Elizabeth Bennett for one. She waits with self-control and integrity for her true love. Just what does Austen imply by “seize the pleasure?”
      Let’s suppose the author penned this thought toward the end of her brief walk on Earth. Perhaps she reached the vantage point to see both sides of life, and the sunset view scribed carpe diem across the horizon.
      On the sunrise side of life we must exchange childhood spontaneity for planning and discipline to achieve their benefits, be it short or long-range goals. Einstein didn’t win the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 by hanging out with the good ole boys at the local tavern.
      Yet, he claimed, “Life is like riding a bicycle."
      Riding a bike is fun. Just what did Einstein infer? 
     To keep your balance you must keep moving, says popular opinion. I’ve read the scientist put more stock in imagination than knowledge.
      To “seize the pleasure at once” means to leave my kitchen sink to join the three little girls next door when they sledded on my hillside. Their laughter beckoned I join them. But I did not. Now they are grown and married with children of their own, and I cannot remember what chore was so important that wintry day.
     It’s tough for a recovering perfectionist to change her habits. But I must because my life is on the downside. Preparation has its place, yet to forsake spontaneity for foiled plans is a bitter result. It does no good to whine and throw myself into fits of anger and discouragement.
There’s nothing more blinding to the creative eye than “foolish preparation.” Therefore, I aim to seize the alternate option.
     Personal responsibility is a necessary function to freedom and successful living, yet goals and plans spring forth from the well of dreams and visions. Just try to plan your dreams, those unannounced, marvelous gifts of the subconscious.
     We’re wise to welcome them. Play with them like a child—throw them up in the air and catch them. Days will turn into weeks, weeks into months. Before we realize it, we’ll find ourselves planning and realizing a creative life.
     Dear Reader, what proverb do you stand upon this New Year?
     Perhaps ponder this at your kitchen sink and listen. Settle into your favorite hiding place or stroll your local library or bookstore.  Words of life will come to you. Promise.
     Thanks for the idea, Einstein. Life is like riding a bicycle.