Thoughtful Living Part VII – The Equinox: Equal Light and Darkness

I have rewritten this entry for my Lehman’s friends several times, never quite feeling as though I can convey what a mixture of emoti19041041on this Spring brings with it.  On the one hand, there is the purely joyful and timely:  the beginning of March, marked by the lionine ferocity of a major snow storm, Bluebirds waiting each morning for their ration of mealworms to make up for a food supply that is either blanketed in white or frozen solid; (as I write, one of those selfsame little balls of color sits at the corner of a back porch roof gable, enjoying the last warmth of a setting sun); the landscape tub by the front steps, cleaned of the remnants of last year’s tomato vine, revealing emerging tips of tulips I had forgotten were tucked into the soil at Summer’s end; the countdown on my calendar to a solid week I will take as vacation time to perform that age-old tradition, Spring Cleaning.

But not all the clouds are bright, puffy white ones.  As an employee of the State, I had heard all the same rumors as my peers – that unlike in difficult times past, wherein my state’s government could point with pride at never having had to lay off staff, things were different now. All options – all – were on the table.  They included not only layoffs, but possible closing of public facilities, unpaid furloughs, reduction of already strained staffing in crucial state services, and on and on. I think it is safe to say that none of us, witnessing other state governments in similar straights resorting to privatizing services and organizations and adding to the ranks of the unemployed, could ignore the underlying, nagging fear.

And so, it was indeed with mixed feeling that I both observed and rejoiced in the Vernal Equinox, and asked long and hard in deep prayer, for a way to receive and find a way to appreciate last Thursday’s announcement.

Journal Entry, Thursday, March 20th

This is a time of awakening – a quickening of the Earth’s pulse here in the northern hemisphere.  There are many uncertainties associated with it, and today revealed one of them.  The Governor of our state announced that in order to make up for a budget shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, there will be severe measures taken, the most immediate of them to state employees, a 10% cut in our incomes.  We are to dodge the bullet called “layoffs,” (at least, for now) but those of us already living on a very narrow margin will have to find a way to either tighten our financial outflow ever further, or compete with those who are entirely unemployed for supplemental income.

We received the Governor’s message in a live telecast that was broadcast in such a way as to be available online. In the larger conference rooms with wide screens and sound systems, people sat in groups of 50 or more.

Where those rooms were filled, tight little knots of people gathered around computers on desks in offices and cubicles with the speakers turned up.  We had all been encouraged to watch and listen, however we could.  The term, “across the board” came along with things like the closing of museums, withdrawal of park funding, and so on.

A state government is not a private enterprise, in which product lines can be lopped off like superfluous parts of a bottom line; but rather, its job is to provide services to its citizens.  Those of us listening were not only the workers on  and receivers of those services – we were also taxpayers.  Our futures were inextricably interwoven with the success of this state government.  The quiet, somewhat stunned minutes after the announcement were followed with hushed conversations in the hallways, offices and outside, where some people chose to digest the news by walking, unable to notice the rest of Spring going on around us.

I suspect – no, I know I was luckier than most, given that I already know how to live sparely and that I do actively celebrate the seasonal holidays, and had determined that this was not a beginning of Spring to miss.  I had brought in hard-cooked eggs to share with my friends, gone out and bought candles to light at dinner in the colors of Spring, and was gratified to receive somewhat overwhelming well wishes from my closest friends and colleagues.  The eclectic nature of our appreciation of each other should not fail notice here — my two “Jewish mothers,” one of them Orthodox, the other a Christian woman who converted to Judaism, both accepted their eggs and asked about the ritual forms and observances of the equinox, which is called in some regions Ostara.  The gentleman of our immediate group, a Roman Catholic, gave me a lovely card that clearly bespoke recognition and regard for my living my faith as he lives his.

That evening, after coming to tears more than once on the drive home, wondering how on earth I’d hold everything together, I sat at my dinner of eggs and Spring greens, staring into the pastel candles.  I gave thanks for the eggs, the candles, the home that sheltered me — if you’ve been following my articles, you know what a huge amount of my life is focused on gratitude; but I kept asking, what am I going to do now?  I blessed tiny seeds of Lavender and set them into starting mix. Still, a clear answer did not emerge, and so I did my best to simply enjoy every bit of what I had.  I noted that the eggs were from an organic farm.  That helped the earth, and the animals were treated humanely.  I had bread – whole grains from the good earth.  Spinach and other baby greens – the first new pokings up from the cool soil were there on my plate, ready to nourish me.

I am almost ashamed to say that it took me until today, Monday, March 23rd to open my eyes and receive the answer.  This was a red letter day for me – I got the braces that have been reshaping my jawline taken off. The expense that has come with doing this and the bridgework that will follow are among the things that have had me forgetting some of my blessings; but nonetheless, today marked more than two years with what I’ve kiddingly called my own personal Full Metal Jacket, and while not a comfortable 3+ h34791073our procedure removing them, it was a welcome one.

In a gesture of uncharacteristic self-indulgence, I stopped on the way home after, and got a bottle of bubbly.  I knew I needed to take a nap before enjoying it, and I sat nibbling gingerly on a banana long enough to write a few lines before retreating to my room.  A tiny, fabulously loud Carolina Wren invited itself at just that moment onto my back porch, less than two feet from the window by my table, and I finally “got it.” Spring is about uncertainty.  About newness.  About eyes wide open, looking for opportunity but not necessarily expecting it in any form that is familiar.

Not one of the birds or other wild animals that have gathered here or in a thousand nearby woods knows for certain what they’ll meet with.  Each comes with blind faith, knowing at some level only that what they need, they’ll find.  Not one hangs back, resisting the urge to find a new nesting place, court a mate, build a twiggy/leafy home.  None of them.

Journal Entry – Monday, March 23rd

The braces are off and I am exhausted.  I sit and watch deer poking through the weeds out back, finding new green under on the wild blackberry branches, and a Wren does a boisterous rendition of “I Feel Good!”  What am I to think of a 10% cut in my income?  I’ll call it tithing.  I give 10% – tens of thousands of us give 10% – so that we can keep our jobs.  So that we can continue to do the work that our jobs comprise.  We serve a community and we are at the same time that community.  The sun shines no less warmly, nor do the animals visit and gift me less with their beauty because I take a pay cut.  All the things I have written in my little notebook that sustain me and make me smile are just as true now as before the announcement, and I will not let this bump in the road shake me from my enjoyment of a coming season of new growth.

It did not come as a surprise to me that the morning before my appointment, when I checked my Gratitude Wall box and found that there, along with several emails from people wishing their messages be kept anonymous, the outpouring of hope and thanks had multiplied over the weekend, when everyone realized a truth.  Someone I care about said it best: “90% of something is better than 100% of nothing.”  We’ll make it.

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14 years ago

What a lovely, thoughtful blog. May God continue to bless you in all of your endeavors.

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