A Horse or an Antelope or a Duck

I promise this won't be a gripe fest because I know all too well March has a way of bringing out the worst in me, but I will say that the once-quaint habit of feeding the woodstove to heat the house is getting old. I'm a little tired of that thing where I wake up in the very early morning, fell the chill in the air and then start the mental wrestling match that pits getting up and filling the woodbox vs. staying in bed and breathing cold air.

Up always wins, though; once I'm awake it's curtains on slumber. 

There are plenty of things to gripe about: the slippery roads, the endless clearing of snow from the cars, the treacherous landscape beneath our feet these days. Almost everyone I know has fallen this winter, which is funny and also not funny. Some people I know are broken, including Sonny Boy, Sam, who fell while skiing last week and broke his collarbone. Upside: he came home at a time when he would otherwise be far away.  

broken2.jpg

The funny thing is that he's been wearing this great sweatshirt lately with the logo for a company he and his freestyle skiing friends cooked up called Broken. When I asked him why they named it that he answered, Because we're all ... broken.

Right. Of course they are. They flip and spin and launch; they ski on rails and other metal objects; they're upside down a goodly amount of the time. Things break.

While I'm on the subject of the skiing boys, I want to tell you something good that I noticed: they talk to each other on the phone. This has come as a total surprise, but these boys actually call each other to ask questions, to check in, to say hello. They’re really nice to each other. I thought Sam's generation (he's 22) was just a bunch of silent texters; turns out they're conversational. Several times this past week while Sam has been home convalescing, I've heard him talking to his buds back in Tahoe. It's a thing. It’s nice. 

What else?

I drive a lot, I think I mentioned that before. I live in two places, in northern and in southern Vermont, and I do hospice work in the eastern part of the state. This winter I've noticed a lot of what I call snow ghosts. It's when the snow falls from the trees in a gentle, slow-motion kind of way and it looks really ghostly. Sometimes there's an updraft and the snow stays afloat longer. It was happening a lot yesterday when I drove through Londonderry, Chester, that area. 

I probably shouldn't have been eating Twizzlers for breakfast, but that's the way it goes some days. It was a weird day right from the start. I needed some help with my work phone, so I went to see the IT guys when I got to the office. Anyone in here need any spiritual care? I asked when I entered the sacred space of broken computers, piles of laptop satchels and small screwdrivery things.

Silence.

You sure? It's free!

Still no takers even though I knew they needed my help; two of them had Facebook open on their computer screens and one had weird pictures of women with improbably large boobs. A slow day in IT land; still, they were unable to resolve my phone issue before I had to leave for a meeting in Randolph.

More snow ghosts.

Then a real one. It was a churchy meeting I had. I do so many different things that sometimes I forget which is happening: wait... I'm a pastor right now; no, hold on ... I'm a newspaper reporter, hospice chaplain. It's kind of funny. So anyway, I had this church meeting and I was sitting in the office of the person who was helping me figure some things out when I saw this ghost thing kind of float in front of her, which didn't surprise me because she's really spiritual and wise and always helps me feel better about being a pastor, which can be quite confusing. 

Then the lights flickered and then the lights went out. There was a power outage in Randolph.

I went down the street to check on one of my hospice people because she's on oxygen and I didn't want her to get worried. She lives in an apartment building where you have to be buzzed-in and nothing was working what with the no power. Magically, the lady who has all the keys was going in at the same time I was.

My friend was OK, we talked for a while, stared out the window together, the power came back on and I headed out.

When I got to the front entrance of the building there was a man wearing all-black, including the beanie on his head, holding small hand weights and dancing a little, looking out the front windows. I said hello, we started talking and in a very short time he told me the incredible story of how he came to Vermont from New Jersey. It involved a good friend, a house purchased sight-unseen, books, swimming and picnicking, the love of a younger woman and his sculpture. 

I would gather all these metal objects, and then one morning I'd wake up and look at the pile and take some pieces and weld them together. Then the next day I'd look at the pile and pick some more things and weld them to the thing and pretty soon I'd have a horse or an antelope ... or a duck.

I totally didn’t see that coming, the duck part, and I could talk a lot more about this situation, but I have to get Sam to the airport. Still, I wanted you to know these things: about the snow ghosts and the actual ghost. I wanted you to know about the broken people and the kindness of young men and my woodstove fatigue; the power outage and the Twizzlers, which I do not recommend at all for breakfast though they make a great snack when you go to the movies.

But really, more than anything I wanted you to know about the man dressed all in black with the hand weights who, if you go to that apartment building in the middle of Randolph, will happily tell you about horses and antelope and ducks and love. So much love.

Amen.