Discalced

About this time every year, I start thinking about summer. Sunny cups of morning coffee, lingering afternoons on the golf course, late evening chats on the front porch, life discalced. Shoeless, like Joe Jackson or St. Teresa of Ávila and her Carmelite nuns who lived in poverty and simplicity and devoted their time to prayer and serving others. Not that I want to be a disgraced baseball player or a nun, of course, but the shoeless part does appeal to me.

But then along comes another arctic air mass, this one an especially frigid blast with snow flurries, afternoon temperatures in the 30s, and wind chills in the teens. I guess I’ll have to postpone my discalced dreams for another few days in favor of thick wool socks and duck boots. Sigh.

But things could be worse. Comrade Putin, tired of being bogged down in Ukraine, might decide to set his sights on the Eastern Shore. Ketanji Brown Jackson, the most popular and qualified Supreme Court nominee in years, might lose her cool a la Will Smith and decide to punch Ted Cruz. The St. Peter’s Peacocks, the Cinderellas of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, might have their glorious bubble burst by the North Carolina Tar Heels by twenty points… Wait; what? They did? I say again, “Sigh.” (But wasn’t it fun while it lasted?)

All these cobblestones lead me down a street to a quote I rediscovered the other day. It was a line from “Gilead” a novel by Marilynne Robinson. “There are a thousand thousand reasons to love this life, every one sufficient.” And there you have it: hope in a nutshell.

It’s all too easy to feel defeated by all that is bad in this weary world: everything from a late season arctic air mass, to an unprovoked war, to the taint of racism, to even the dashed dreams of a bunch of kids playing way above their heads. The only antidote I know is over there on the sunnier side of the street in the myriad little details that somehow make this life one worth loving. They poke their heads up through cracks in the sidewalk, bright yellow dandelions, color in the most unexpected drab places.

For reasons I cannot begin to understand I awoke this morning thinking of old friends. (To be clear, by “old” I mean longstanding, not ancient.) Friends like Federico who, upon retirement from a distinguished teaching career, moved back to his native Albuquerque where he can sit an evening and read the racing sheets while watching the sunset slide down the slopes of the Sandia Mountains. Or Darcy who just returned to Amman, Jordan to direct a reforestation project. Or Janel who showed up on our front porch after nearly twenty years with her teenage son Jack to talk about colleges. Or Drew who found surfing peace and a state baseball championship on the Delaware shore. I could go on and on, but you get the point: a thousand friends making a thousand thousand reasons to love this life.

So be not discouraged by this most recent bout of cold air. It, too, shall pass. Think, instead, of all the beauty of this world, some of it hidden, some of it in plain sight. And once warmer weather finally does arrive to stay for a while, take off your shoes and feel the grass between your toes.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon.

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