Photo: I got children on the bus on Thursday morning, then got to clearing the cars of the ice and snow that fell on Wednesday. I lamented the weather, the cold, the state, our ice rink driveway, our neighbor who won’t help keep it clear, and our not-garage barn. Why do we live here? As I hacked and slashed at the crystal casings cover the cars, I just happened to look up and saw this view. It was as if Winter itself had heard my lamentations. “And ain’t I beautiful?” The answer, at least in that moment, was yes.
I have spent my day trying to put together a house that has been utterly neglected for more than a week. This house is never so cluttered and unloved than in winter, what with the boys’ toys scattered across the living room, craft stuff taking over the dining room, and the kitchen forever in use. In years past, I’ve been able to keep on top of it… (bwwahahahaaha, who am I kidding!?)… but this year, with the committee work, freelancing, a job interview, and volunteering, Lord, it’s as though nobody loves this place. The ghost hasn’t been by to mercilessly admonish me (she comes in and out as she pleases. Maybe she knows by now that winter just ain’t the season for a visit), and I haven’t heard a whispered tsk from Grandy… so I’ve either been forgiven or I’ve been ignored, too. Either way, today was the day to work some of it out. Tomorrow, Dear Reader, marks the start of kinkling weekend.
I know I have a lot of new readers now, so I should probably explain: these are the last few days before Ash Wednesday and the start of the season of Lent. To mark the occasion, my family has fried braided potato donuts called kinklings in my little hometown in Maryland. My grandmother taught me how to make them over a decade ago, and I’ve followed her recipe to the letter ever since. Kinkling weekend is basically a day of comings and goings, as friends come by from near and far, bringing their babies, bringing their own little nibbles and treats, standing around in my cozy kitchen, or running around with the kids. This house will be so full tomorrow. It will be a significant and wonderful reminder that, though it’s not home, we’ve done good things here in Massachusetts, and good things have happened for us here in return.
I can’t help but feel a little nervous. What if the dough doesn’t rise? What if I don’t have enough? What if the first batch is awful? What if nobody comes? I fretted about the weather (it’s going to be great tomorrow!), I fretted about sickness (we’re all doing ok), and I’ve fretted about the driveway (it’ll be muddy, but navigable). I purchased a lot of the simple, magical ingredients that will make these precious little treasures happen. I’ve prepared my kitchen, clearing the counters, locating tools, putting out eggs and butter to get to room temperature. Somewhere around 4 tomorrow morning, I’ll get up and start skinning potatoes, setting them to boil. I’ll start sifting flour, adding unmeasured spices as I go. I’ll arrange meetings between milk, butter and yeast. I’ll pray, constantly, that I don’t mess it all up.
My Quiet Thoughts this Friday are on the relief I know I’m going to feel tomorrow morning when I sleepily step into my kitchen and get to work. This was a full kind of week, Dear Reader, with annoyances and triumphs, hopeful longing and deep disappointment. My heart broke a little this week, my spirit sang a bit this week. I let go of something I deeply want and simply cannot have. I listened to new and interesting voices, some who had no idea what they’re talking about, others who may see something I’ve been blind to. This week was a steady drumbeat, every moment scheduled and accounted for, relentless from start to finish. I’m so fried. I cannot express enough my gratitude for your patience with me, allowing me to step away from here so I could give my brain all the bandwidth it required to get all the tasks done.
Tomorrow, I’ll step into my kitchen and none of the burdens of this week will come with me. They will fall off of my shoulders as I heave with my full strength into hand-kneading my kinkling dough. They will leave my focus as I use my paring knife to skin so many potatoes. They will clear from my psyche as yeasty aromas occupy my nostrils. They vanish from my presence as laughter and warmth fill my kitchen. I cannot wait to retreat from my head and into my heart with each step, each rise, each braid and each fry. I’ll emerge again on Monday, physically exhausted but, hopefully, renewed.
It is a chilly night, though not as cold as it could be. The farmhouse is still messy, but it’s quiet, and it’s better. The fox and rabbit keep leaving footsteps in the snow. No signs of a chase. Not yet, anyway. May we all find peace and warmth in our burrows tonight.
On this Friday, the end of something and the beginning of something else, I wish you time to mark the occasion. Find some time to just sit, to say “the end” to whatever you’ve been doing; to rest for a period, but then pivot and start fresh into whatever new thing is impending. We spend so little time in the space in between “the end” and “the beginning,” but it’s important, Dear Reader. We need time to rest and transition. Breathe into the quiet, gray space between here and there. Might I suggest doing it with a cup of tea? That’s what I’m doing right now. Decaf chai, I think, might have magical properties. I wish you an act of creation this weekend. Something so grand as a fabulous dinner or something so simple as a folded paper airplane. Or perhaps, perhaps a handmade note for that special someone you’re trying to impress on Valentine’s Day? Stretch your skills and do something cute, Dear Reader! I wish you a song to sing at the top of your lungs (in the shower? In your car? Karaoke with friends?) and/or a spontaneous dance party this weekend. Bonus points if you share with more than one other person. Extra bonus points if you can make it happen with a stranger (I… might have sung a few bars of a Britney Spears song with another mom in Wegmans today…). I wish you a story told with gusto and skill, evoking laughter and joy. I wish you a smile from across a room, made only for you. I wish you the warmth of a hand in yours, the softness of lips on your cheek, a whispered “I love you” that stirs something deep and sleeping inside of you.
I wish you the reminder that you do good things in this world, and good things are done for you in return. What you do in this world matters, Dear Reader. You are beautiful. You are powerful. Your life has meaning, even if it isn’t fully apparent to you. People are watching you, appreciating just how much you give, admiring you for your capacity to do great things. Spend just a moment this weekend reminding yourself that you are loved profoundly, by people near and far.
Keep going. Keep shining your light against the darkness.
Thank you for your patience with me, Dear Reader. I anticipate a full week next week. Until Monday, take care.