Days of Broken Glass

Last week, I wrote a few words in praise of The Slow Life. And you responded.

So many of you said you live in just the same way. Or try to. Or want to. And I was pleased. Maybe even a little smug in my self-satisfaction.

And then ice blew in on the wind, and I learned something: my vision of the good, slow life is highly dependent on hot coffee in the morning. And hot tea in the afternoon. And cozy heat in the radiators and running water in the tub. And, well, creature comforts of every kind.

But there are days when the carpet of your usual choices does not roll out at your feet. Days that do not begin with hot coffee and do not end on the sofa watching PBS with your husband.

What does this slow life look like when we are not comfortable? On those days, is the slow life we crave even possible?




On our first day without power, I spent many hours reading on my old pink settee by the light from my bedroom windows. It was cozy under a blanket, and the baby took a good nap. The cold hadn’t yet settled into our bones the way it would on day two.

But I wasn’t comfortable. I was on edge. Every few minutes I would hear a rending, cracking sound, and I would sit up looking left to right, left to right, trying to see which tree was losing its battle with the ice this time. When a 120-year-old maple tree loses a limb, that limb is still the size of a large tree. And those large trees fall with a grinding sound of splintered wood, and a crashing sound of falling limbs, and the shattering sound of a shower of ice.

When I lived in Chicago, I would often come across a sweep of broken windshield glass glittering on the sidewalk. Sometimes, I would find more and more of it leading from car to car and on to my own car parked on the street with a startled look where the front windshield once was.

Late in the day, I took a short walk, and I remembered all that broken glass. By then the temperature had warmed to the low 30s and a lot of the ice had dropped its hold on the trees and scattered in the wind. You could see it everywhere, great sweeps of it sprinkled on top of the frozen snow.

I stepped carefully, shielding my eyes against the glittery light, and realized that the whole sky must be made of glass, like the windshield of a car.

And someone had taken a hammer to it.

There are quiet days and there are days we are convinced someone, somewhere is wielding a hammer.

And, honestly, I’m still waiting for whoever’s in charge to put down the hammer because the suitcases we packed when we decamped to a hotel have disgorged their contents in every room like last night’s dinner, and I’m sick with a cold and a pounding headache, and they say another big storm is headed our way.

And yet, I still want to say this: there’s a still point in this turning world. On the quiet days it grows in us, we welcome it into our hearts with coffee cups and dinners together and hours with a book and bedtime stories read by the fireplace and candlelight at breakfast just because.

And when the hammer falls, and the sky does come falling, that still point doesn’t leave us as we duck and take cover. It’s still there in our hearts and still out there in the world. Leaning over, catching our breath, we might spot it.

To me, this day, it looks like one splintered tree fallen just to the right of my car and one splintered tree fallen just to the left. It looks like another tree lying broken just beside the kids’ playset and another huge limb right beside the henhouse.

Looking around, I would swear that no trees fell on this hill.

They were placed.

(Also, my husband says he’ll slice the old maple wood into pretty round platters for serving bread and cheese, so there’s that.)



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