I am stopped by the side of the road in a very special place in the San Luis Valley. It doesn’t matter what it is called or what number names the route. I am overlooking one of the canals that only runs in the spring here, when the snow melts in the mountains and runs downhill. It is brimming, this canal, probably running quite fast, but the surface is still and dozens of swallows are swooping over the water, greedily feasting on the mosquitoes that hatch like one of Pharoah’s plagues this time of year. The sky is a perfect summer blue, pale, clouds rimming the horizon, a puffy layer, embracing the shoulders of the blue blue mountains still capped in snow.. Spreading in front of my eyes are the magical alfalfa fields, a green the color of lime rinds, bursting with new life despite the snowstorm yesterday and a freeze last night. The trees are leafing out, the earth warms, but even so, the canal is lined with little vestiges of snowbanks that will surely melt today, a day that is promising to be near perfect.
These are the days to remember. Yup. It is often a fight to withstand the wind and cold, the long winter, the almost non-existent spring. No flowering trees and newly mowed lawns and tulips and daffodils for us, living out in the chico waiting for the rabbitbrush to turn its pale silvery green. Spring is a time of wind, brown dirt filling the air some days, cold sleet and all the animals hunched over with their tails to the wind, patiently enduring. But then a day like this comes and we forget, we forgive, and we settle in for the perfect summer-short, yes, but perfect.
I know, here I go, getting trite again, but isn’t it just like life? So many hard and harsh days, cold and inhospitable, trudging along until we can flop on the couch, drink a beer and lose ourselves in television. How do we learn to live in the now when the now, frankly, sucks? How do we wait? How do we learn patience except by living in impatience until, in exhaustion, we lapse into indifference? I really don’t know. I am not a Zen kind of gal. I wish I was.
The earth is patient. All creation seems to be patient except we humans. It just goes along, all of it, and the birds still sing when the wind is howling, the grass still grows, even when the ground is dry and seems dead. It just goes like it goes. It doesn’t live in the future or the past, it doesn’t howl with anger or outrage, it just is.
The water looks still on the surface but I know it is strongly moving underneath. If I were to jump in with my rake and my hip boots, as I have in my own ditches each spring, it would pull me hard, fill my boots up with water so cold I would gasp. There is movement, there is impulsion, after all, the world is spinning at an impossibly high speed. I should be grateful it all feels still to me. I am, in the end, along for the ride. I am grateful, today, in this lovely moment, to be watching the swallows sweeping along the water’s surface, making the mundane pursuit of food look like a complicated and magnificent dance. That would be a good way to live. Maybe I’ll try it.