As I write this, I am sitting on my screened-in porch, a blanket tucked around my shoulders as I enjoy the peaceful aftermath of a violent mid-day storm. My dog, Maggie, is tucked at my side while the other two pooches patrol for squirrels in the crisp, gray air. There is no traffic, no construction, no lawn mowers or boats. In this moment, there is only me, and the ebb and flow of the leaves in the wind, rolling like grains of sand caught in gentle waves on the beach.
To me, this is pretty close to heaven. The only thing that could make this better is my husband at arm’s length and a warm cup of cocoa. For someone else, this could be pure hell. Nothing to distract, nothing to provide company or entertainment, no one to talk to or to laugh with. And yet, here I am, peacefulness in my soul and joy in my heart.
This weekend, Kirk and I glimpsed a different kind of joy. Visiting our oldest friends, we marveled at the fact that they created three small people between them—the youngest only a handful of months in this world. Three little mini-me’s with curly hair, and bright smiles, swift anger and even faster joy. Their house is filled to the rafters with shouting, and toys, and worries, and hopes, and always dreams. There is not a quiet corner to be had as their lives rattle forward, full steam ahead.
I am glad for them, and their choices that brought them such a distinctly different life. For these small visits, measured by hours a few times a year, I am happy to play horse to a young cowboy and to teach a handful of foreign words to a curious little learner. I am pleased to quiet cries and scold naughtiness and praise good deeds. When we drive away, it is with no sadness or regret, just looking forward to the next visit, the next moment our lives intersect, when their tiny bodies have grown that much more, acting as yardsticks for my own march in time.
My mom reminded me that our visit was much like the visit of my mother’s oldest friend – affectionately called our aunt - when I was of an age still measured in months. The three of us under five, my aunt came cross country to see us, particularly me—the newest edition. I have a picture of her holding me in front of a church where we lived. I in ruffley pink, she fresh faced and grinning, it is an oddly timeless moment, despite the aging colors of the decades-old photograph.
It struck me as odd, almost surreal, like I had come full circle. From the wide-eyed infant in one picture to the broadly smiling “Aunt” in the next, it was as if the time in between had curled in on itself, revealing the circular path of our journeys in this world. Every thirty years or so, the next generation pops up, an endless recycling of events that each person thinks is unique, but is as old as time. Children being born, graduations, marriages, and everything in between.
It made me feel closer to my parents, and grandparents, and those ancestors I never even knew, to know that they traveled similar journeys. They visited with old friends and sat around a kitchen table late into the night, laughing and chatting and reminiscing. Sometimes marveling at how much life had changed, and how far they had come from the days past. Perhaps they even shook their heads in wonder at how lives started so similarly had meandered so far in such various directions.
My friend wondered aloud this weekend at the impact our choices have on our lives. The infinite realities that could have been, each one connected to a different choice, one even as simple as where you chose to eat lunch. I can appreciate the thought in theory, but for me, there is only the path I am on. I don’t worry for the outcome of the choices not made, but instead give thanks for the ones that I did make.
My choices have been just right for me, just as others’ choices—so very different from mine—have been just right for them. Joy pervades my life in so many ways. Even amongst worries for the future – for my career, and money, and the direction that each of my choices lead—I go forth with peace and happiness for where I am, for the people I love, for the pups that make me smile, and, of course, for the husband who makes me swoon.
Do you sometimes marvel at life? Caught off-guard by the continual slipping of days going by? Are you happy for your choices, which brought you to where you are?
So, on a cool autumn day, what would be better than one of my all-time favorite cool-weather dinners: Taco Soup! The recipe below is copied word for word from the recipe given to me years earlier by the very friends we visited this weekend. Enjoy!
Taco Soup Recipe:
1 cup of love
1 packet of Hidden Valley ranch dressing (powder)
1 packet of taco seasoning
1-1.5 pounds of ground beef or turkey (optional)
1 can of pinto beans (drained)
2 cans of shoepeg corn or 1 large package of frozen white and yellow sweet corn
2 humungous cans of petite diced tomatoes
2 cans of mild Rotel
1/2 chopped onion (browned with meat or in oil if no meat)
Fritos scoops (I used tortilla chips)
Brown the meat and onions together, drain.
Combine the love, ranch, taco seasoning, browned beef and onions, beans, corn,
tomatoes, and Rotel into a large crock pot. You may adjust amount of ingredients depending on how many you are serving. Put the crockpot on low for 4-5 hours (or high for 1-2 hours). When it is done, put in bowls and top with cheddar cheese and sour cream. Place scoops around bowl. Dip scoops, lift scoops, place scoops and soup into mouth. Chew vigorously. Say mmm mmm good.