A season of waiting

These weeks of March are taking a toll.
The spirit yearns for the snow to melt,
For green shoots and flowers to sprout from frozen ground,
For warm breezes to tickle sleeveless arms,
For the vast ocean to reveal the lost hopes of so many,
For signs that people can live in peace, with love,
For decisions made and new journeys begun.

May I have the presence to breathe, not fret,
To see possibility and hope,
To be grateful, even, for the waiting.

—Gary Lerude

Sunset on Route 3

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Spring blossoms

Last night I arrived home past dark, returning from a four-day business trip to Dallas. So it was only this morning, backing out of the driveway, that I noticed the azalea blooming. By the side of the driveway, this bush has consistently been the first in our yard to bloom.

After what seemed like an interminable winter, here’s welcome proof that spring has arrived, more definitive than the calendar or the teasing hints of warmer weather. I’m not sure why this particular winter seemed so long; I don’t recall the sense of an endless season since arriving in New Hampshire 13 years ago.

Thanks to the blooms on that azalea, I have a deep sense of renewal.

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Meditation on snow

Backyard draped in snowWith the second storm in three days upon us, we decided to forgo church this morning.

As the snow fell outside, our family gathered in the living room, lit a chalice, and shared contemplative readings. Despite our frenzied holiday schedules, complicated by the weather of the past two weeks, we captured a few moments of quiet togetherness.

One of two readings I shared was part of the poem Valentine, written by Elizabeth Tarbox, from the collected meditations What We Share. Her reflection is so appropriate for today’s storm and this first day of winter.

“Creation gives us snow.

“Lest we imagine beauty was only for summer, or trees for leafing; just in case we thought cold was for winter or, at best, firesides or pots of pea soup, creation gives us snow.

“Creation outlines each slender twig with snow, a flake at a time. With divine patience, winter writes a character, a syllable, a word, until nature’s grace is there on every tenacious surface.”

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Modern conveniences, nay necessities

Ice hanging from branchesAs I write, I’m watching snow flakes drift gently from the sky, adding to the quintessential snow scene outside. My vantage point inside is warm, with plenty of electricity to turn the furnace fan, run this computer, and light the Christmas tree.

A week ago, an unexpected ice storm caused massive power outages in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as falling tree limbs, branches, even entire trees brought down the power grid. Our power company said 322,000 customers in New Hampshire lost power at the peak of the disaster.

Our home went dark shortly after 11 pm on Thursday; power wasn’t restored until around 5 pm on Tuesday, roughly 4 days 18 hours later. I know a couple of people who didn’t get power back until yesterday (Friday), more than a week after losing it. My wife, kids, and I spent two nights in a hotel and three nights with gracious friends who had electricity and spare bedrooms.

Reflecting on the experience, I have a few observations.

Modern society is completely dependent upon the electric and telecommunications infrastructure. The reliability of these services is so high, we take them for granted and, in many cases, have little or no recourse when they fail. Without heat or light, my family had to seek shelter elsewhere.

We live in an age of instant gratification. Having to live without power for days and not knowing when it would be restored was contrary to our experience and expectations. My anxiety and frustration increased in proportion to the number of days we were forced to do without. I was not alone. One online posting quipped “If we put a man on the moon, why can’t they restore power in less than a week?”

The men and women who tirelessly worked around the clock to repair the damage, organize the effort and crews, and communicate to the public deserve our deep appreciation. When they finally have a chance to catch up on their sleep, I hope they will find deep satisfaction from their technical skills and, more importantly, their connection to the fabric of our humanity.

With no power, our cordless phones didn’t work; the phone line via fiber connection failed when the back-up battery drained. However, our cell phones did not fail, as long as we found a way to keep them charged. More impressive, though, is that the cellular base station network that relays our calls, texts, and Internet access remained powered and working throughout the ordeal.

For those who could access the web, at least from time to time, an online community formed around the ice storm. We tracked restoration efforts, followed one another’s experiences, provided encouragement, shared gallows humor, and celebrated when the lights finally came on. I feel a connection with people I have not met in person — a reflection of the Internet’s ability to form community.

Forced to choose my priorities, I prefer heat to light.

With deep gratitude, I think I will go take my morning shower. As hot as I can bear it.

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Fall colors

Fall colors
New England is ablaze in the colors of fall,
The warmth of summer replaced with cooler nights and days, seeing the breath in the morning, frost on the grass.
Dawn comes later, dark earlier, as the sun falls faster into the horizon.
Apples, pumpkins, and leaf peeping spur family outings – the children’s laughter the same delight as the “oohs” and “aahs” of the adults.
Life has a renewed sense of urgency:
Winter is coming.

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