This is the winter of our discontent. The storms that pelt against the windows, shellac the grounds with ice, and fog in the small aircraft, are mere reflections of the inner turmoil we are feeling.
Perhaps the last time you felt good about job opportunities and housing prices, the critical thinking skills our children are learning, the national budget and the cost of preventive and healing medical care is too long ago to really remember. Or, maybe, you never felt these things. Ever.
The absolutely astounding thing about these things is that we never stop wanting them. Of course, it eventually becomes harder and nearly impossible to retain hope for an easier and less costly way to live the American dream of a high quality life. You try to stay positive through months of job searching; you avert your eyes at all the foreclosure signs in the neighborhood; you refuse to watch Fox channel’s biased and unfair news or NBC’s news sound bites between unlimited commercial breaks; you try not to count the zeroes in the national debt figure (twelve); and, you pray fervently you don’t get sick and need a doctor or operation.
It’s exactly this effort that makes it virtually impossible to be content and peaceful throughout your day.
I remember being peaceful, once.
It was about a hundred years ago when I was nine years old. My best friend was out with her folks and I was bored. I wanted to ditch my older brother who could be such a nuisance some times and have some peace and quiet. I felt it best not to ask permission to leave the house for a while, as I probably wouldn’t get it and would instead be put to work sweeping the kitchen floor or babysitting my baby brother. I casually sauntered across the living room floor acting cool, and made it to the screen door without incident. I stood there for just long enough looking uninterested, then slowly pushed open the door. I was soon outside on the porch. Made it! I took off at a fast pace across the lawn, onto the sidewalk and around the corner.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning in early summer. The birds were happily singing and hardly anyone was outside yet, which was just perfect. I lived in a very small town where everyone knew everyone else and would tattle to my parents if they thought I was wandering too far from home and getting into trouble.
I walked the two blocks to the main part of town and took a right. I was into my rhythm now. Not too many people hung around the car repair shop or the farm implement store, and the tavern wasn’t open yet. I started to skip down the sidewalk. Right before the street ended, I stopped at Almira’s yard and picked myself a few grapes. She was an old spinster lady who was always nice to us kids, so I knew she wouldn’t mind if I helped myself.
I kept walking past the dead end and right up to the wooden fence. I scanned the pasture and smiled: the cows were gone and the bull was nowhere to be seen. I climbed over, jumping to the ground. I steadied myself and walked purposefully across the flat grazing land, heading straight for the little creek. I knew exactly where the spring fed into the creek bed and helped myself to a few handfuls of fresh water.
After I had refreshed myself, I reached down and picked a few sweet purple clover buds. A short time later I had made it to a small hill and was settling my little frame onto the grassy patch by the big bush. I could see the entire town from here, and more importantly, if the bull decided to come by. I wasn’t afraid of cows, I rode them on my uncle’s farm when no one was looking. I would have preferred a horse, but I made do with what was available. But a bull was an entirely different proposition.
I munched on the clover and then laid back for a rest, my arms up and my head on my hands. The sky was a beautiful blue and the clouds seemed whiter and fluffier than usual. A gentle, wispy breeze blew across my face like angel wings. Immediately, a wave of enormous joy rolled over my little body and I felt one with everything, and everything was perfect, so I must be, too.
I thought great thoughts that day while looking up. I just knew everything was going to turn out just perfect. I’d have a great teacher that fall and I’d be really smart in class, maybe one of the smartest. I wouldn’t fight with my brother nearly so much and I’d get a new dress to wear every Sunday for church. Oh. And a horse. I’d definitely end up owning a horse.
When it was time to go back home, I was peaceful and content. I got myself up, walked back across the pasture, climbed over the fence and began to walk the four blocks to home. I waved to my neighbors as I passed them. I was feeling pretty cocky because everything was going to be so perfect.
I often wish I was nine again, drinking fresh, clean spring water, crossing an open field of clover, thinking wonderful thoughts about my life and everything in it. Instead, I have to be content remembering instead of being, feeling grateful that it all comes back to me so easily. Once you know what peace truly feels like, you never stop trying to live it. That’s a wonderful gift for a nine year old to give to the world; well…mine, any way.
Something good is going to happen next year. I can see it in the sky.
— ( c ) St. John 2011