This is Now (This is Always)

This is Now (This is Always)

… for history is a pattern / Of timeless moments.

– T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

The kids and I are reading the Little House books. One chapter each night. We began with Farmer Boy and a fire in the old stone hearth. Now we are in the big woods of Wisconsin, and there is birdsong through our open window.

It is also haying time in the fields west of this house. When we drive in that direction, to buy chicken feed from the feed and lumber store or flats of annuals from a greenhouse, we watch teams of muscled, shaggy horses at work in every field. They look as if they have been plowing the same red-clay soil for two hundred years. Day in, day out.

Sometimes there is a young boy holding the reins. He wears suspenders and a straw hat, and together we wriggle to keep from pointing and shout “Look! Farmer Boy!”




In this place, when the breeze carries the bracing smell of hay, just-cut, I am able to understand something about time that is normally hidden from me.

Time is not a line carrying us always farther from the past. Time is not a thread, and we are not simply biding it until the day ours is cut.

These days, in Lancaster County, I can see that time is a spring. Past and present and future bubble up together, and the sound is like music. Like the clip-clop of horses’ hooves. Like birdsong through an open window.

But my children appear to be lines racing, racing away from me. Willowy is the word that comes to mind when I observe my firstborn girl. For nearly two years, I’ve seen her baby face when I look at my youngest, my second girl, but that face is now lost. Elsa Spring has grown into herself. There is a family resemblance, yes, but more and more she looks only like Elsa. Something has been shed, and the lines of her eyes and chin are now hers alone. No longer her older sister’s.

And thus, two baby girls vanish from every place but memory.


I don’t really know if I am living in a country of lost things or a kingdom of restoration and everything made new. I look around, I read the news, and I find both. Hopelessly jumbled.

We lose babies and grandmothers. We lose marriages and homes. We lose our younger selves and friendships and health and peace between nations and on and on forever, it seems.

But every new season is also a return, and the month of May, this pivot between spring and summer, reminds me that it is possible to root myself in that bubbling spring. To live sure of what I cannot always see: that time is not linear but rhythmic. It is a song where every note returns and every note is new.

And this is the living water that sustains me. This is the living water I hold out. To my racing children. To my thirsty neighbor.

Maybe eternity begins when I read a favorite story for the third, fourth, fifth time.

Maybe eternity begins here. Now.





So Close to Home

I grew up without winter. For the most part, at least.

Winters in central Texas were brown and chilly, but you never knew when it might hit eighty degrees. In December, we never bothered to ask for a white Christmas. Instead, I would secretly pray that it wouldn’t be so warm we’d need the air conditioner. Even at eight years old, I found air conditioning very depressing.

As a young girl I read every one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books repeatedly. But I read The Long Winter more than any other. It isn’t a pretty story, far from it, but something about the extreme cold and snow fed my soul. Even then.




It’s a truism that home is where you come from. Home is where you began.

I disagree. I think home is the place we’re headed. Home is the destination.

Here in my little southern corner of Pennsylvania, winter’s grip is fierce. Not Midwestern or New England fierce, to be sure, but strong enough to leave me feeling more than a little battered. More than a little caged-in.

Replacing the chickens’ frozen water with fresh, I feel like Laura Ingalls herself, but by the fourth trip out to the henhouse the literary novelty has quite worn off.




And yet I love winter.

Recently, I dropped the baby in her father’s arms and escaped out the front door with my other daughter, my firstborn. I don’t have ice skates of my own, but I carried hers. We opened the gate in the split-rail fence and we half-slid, half-stumbled down the sledding hill until we could cross the street to the frozen pond.

I stood in the snow, my toes slowly going numb, and I watched my daughter slice one foot and then the other across the ice. I said to myself, “This is Pennsylvania. This is our home.” The word Pennsylvania felt awkward. Perhaps I should blame my frozen lips. Or perhaps not. We are still learning the contours of this place and these people.

She circled the perimeter three times before I made her come in. I might lose my toes, I shouted.




My poor toes. They really did hurt, buried in snow like that, but it was a good kind of pain. Like the sharp, stinging realization that comes at the end of a very long walk. You know you’ve gone farther than you can handle, but it will be worth it. You are so close.

Three times around may have been too much. My daughter fell to her knees only part-way through our climb back up the sledding hill.

You’ll make it, I said. We’re nearly there.

Look! I can see our home from here.



*all photos taken by yours truly (with apologies to our talented, much beloved Photographer)



Pin It on Pinterest