All The Little Things
March 25, 2020
The world quite suddenly has paused and it’s the weirdest thing. Kind of like vertigo.
Before, there seemed never to be enough time, and now suddenly there seems to be almost too much of it. A single hour begets another hour and another one after that. The days are long for a people who, as a whole, thrive on filling every hour of every day with going and doing. We are floundering a bit in this paused state, aren’t we? It feels unnatural, and yet somewhere deep inside me I know it isn’t. I feel myself tilting toward it–leaning into it even–wishing to follow it down the rabbit hole.
It seems the whole world is holding its collective breath. Except for the little ones. Except for Sepp, my three-year-old grandson who happened to be spending part of his preschool spring break with us when the world went topsy-turvy.
Sepp wasn’t holding his breath about anything. In his world, little had changed except all the sudden adults were bugging him about washing his hands all the time. Other than that, it was business as usual. He awoke early with his curious little mind fully engaged with this very minute, while I awakened with my grown-up bent to prematurely engage in the next minute–where there would be new information about more germs and hand sanitizer and the odd development of a nationwide toilet paper shortage.
Sepp wouldn’t have it, though. He took me by the hand and together we went outside where we breathed the freshest air into our healthy lungs. We left behind the big things to enter into a place where all the little things live. We threw rocks in the river. We did it for hours. Then we hunted for the very best flat rocks to take home to paint. We were unaffected by real-life flying dilemmas as we played airplane. I was the passenger and he was the pilot, strapping me into my lawn chair seat with a blue rope with carabiners on each end. He expertly flew the plane with nothing but natural instinct and a bicycle pump control. We flew from Llano to Albuquerque to visit his cousin Lyle. He informed me it would take ten, maybe twelve, hours. I told him it was no problem at all since we had all the time in the world!
The concept of all the time in the world was a novel thought only to me. For Sepp, there is never anything except all the time in the world.
While The Centers for Disease Control was holding a press conference at noon one day, to tell our nation all the things about COVID-19, Sepp and I were right smack dab in the middle of an enchanting bike ride. We were detained when we spotted a giant backhoe digging a ditch right down the middle of a street. It was so intriguing, we parked our bikes and sat on the curb to watch. It’s not every day I get to sit on a curb and watch something like that, while deeply considering exactly what the machine is doing so I can answer every single question of why. There was absolutely no rush to be anywhere else. We could stay as long as we liked, so we did. We saw a man in a yellow vest spraying yellow paint on another street, and we had a nice (though distant) chat with him about gas lines.
Sometime in the afternoon, after we made cookies, I introduced Sepp to the art of licking the beater, or as he called it schlecken the beater, (because sometimes he mixes German with English and makes his own word). As the cookies baked, we made designs in the flour we spilled on the kitchen counter.
In a world of unrest, each day with Sepp was a blank slate we filled with endless adventures whenever they struck our fancy. His innocence and delight in the tiniest little things pulled me far away from the onslaught of too much information. The television was never turned on. My phone was left pinging with notifications from friends about details holding our nation spellbound, and I felt no rush to know them. Instead, my husband and I rode bikes in the rain at dusk with our Sepp boy. And then, because we were already wet, we ate ice cream cones on the porch as the big sky showered us in a light spring rain.
Turns out staying a safe distance from a scary virus and living joyfully are not mutually exclusive. We can do both simultaneously. I tested it out and found it to be true. My friend Vivian has tested it, and Keenan too. And Brenda. And others I don’t know about. We’ve all found it to be true. The bridge between staying safe and living joyfully is this.
ALL THE LITTLE THINGS.
We have to remember them and let our hands dig into them and our bare feet touch them and our imaginations think them. We have to see them in every single moment in this unexpected gift of time–when the world has stilled for a bit, seemingly teetering on a precipice.
We have to live with every one of our senses fully engaged in this very second.
Even now, all the little things are still here.
ALL THE LITTLE THINGS ARE STILL HERE!
We’ll see them when we turn off the news, step away from our phones and let God remind us that this day is still a gift. No matter what. No matter how messy or scary it is. As long as I have breath in my lungs let me remember this. I’m praying that I do.
As I write on this quiet, cloudy day, my daughter-in-law, a pulmonologist at a university hospital, is working in the ICU with the sickest of sick. My son and their little girl are playing at home, and I’m certain their thoughts are never fully free of thinking of her. She and all the other healthcare professionals are doing the thing they are expert at–at great risk to themselves. They aren’t whining I assure you. They are going before all of us, one foot in front of the other, to make the sick well and to make the well stay that way. You know what I think they need from us? They need us to stay home and keep the joy going. It creates a very necessary balance of things. One day, when all of this over, they’ll walk out of hospitals exhausted from the battle. They will get their lives back. I pray they find that those of us who had the unexpected and fortunate gift of time did not squander a minute of it away.
I think those of us living in these days will alway mark time as before and after. Before when we behaved as if our constant individual motion was somehow keeping the world spinning. And after, when we discover the fallacy of that notion and the value of ceasing in this oddly beautiful interlude. After, when we remember the days of all the little things. For me, I’ll remember a little boy with a pocket full of rocks and a flower for his mama.