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A Circle in the Snow

Winter I am utterly exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. Existentially.

It is 5:37am. The house is quiet. I just poured my first cup of coffee. Outside, I hear machines plowing snow. Inside, I hear questions.

The plan was to tell you about some magical conversations I've had recently. But in my world, a plan made tends to become a plan broken. And, apparently, this is no exception. The conversation post will wait until tomorrow.

I veer from my agenda because this is a very-Aidan-like thing to do and because yesterday was a day that I cannot let go. It was a hard and beautiful and poetic day. A day full of reminders, big and small, about life and death and all the stuff in between. A day that crept under my skin, a day both haunting and inspiring. And, yes, exhausting.

And so. Three sips into bitter blackness (I have forgone artificial sweetness - in coffee at least), I vow to keep things simple - or not so simple - and tell you about my yesterday. And a disclaimer is in order. These words here? Full of heart, but likely to wander and curl up on the ends. This post? Won't be neat and tidy and boast the linearity you crave. This little creation will swoop and swerve unsatisfyingly. Prepare yourself.

Yesterday, there was snow. Tons of it. Blanketing and slowing my world and so many of yours. It was a day to stay inside and in pajamas. It was a day to snuggle with little girls and sip hot chocolate and innocence and watch Disney movies. Like The Lion King. Like this favorite of mine - and that of my girls. Yesterday, was a day to stop and smell sweetness and hang with little Simba.

But. I did not have a snow day. No. Though the schools were closed and the roads were a mess, I ventured across the park with Mom. To a memorial service. Any day is a good one to celebrate the life of a good man. The service was for an old friend's father who was married to my mother's very good friend. The man was an elegant and well-known Manhattan attorney and father who lost a quick battle to pancreatic cancer at age sixty-six.

Cancer. Sixty-six. These details are eerily familiar.

The vast chapel was packed to the gills with fellow law partners and CEOs and regular people like Mom and me. As the snow fell outside the vast arched windows, all of us listened to testimonials of greatness, sang hymns about humanity and hope, and processed a departure. It wasn't until the man's kids spoke that my own tears came. First, his step-daughter got up there. Her poise was stunning. She read a list of silly jokes once told and we all chuckled with her. And then, through tears, she said something like, "Now, there is a gaping hole in our world. And we are managing."

Managing. I know a little about that.

And then my friend spoke. I haven't seen him in many years, but I remember him fondly. Now a teacher, he stood and his voice carried and he took command of that impossibly big room. He told us that when his father was diagnosed, his first thought and utterance was about fairness and its opposite. And his father said to him something like, "Many people would say that sixty-six years of success and happiness for one man is not fair."

Once upon a time, a man I know said something exactly like this.

The snow did not abate. The streets were precarious and slick. But still. I left the church, hat-less, umbrella-less, utterly unprepared and I walked south. Toward the home of a good friend who just had her first baby. I stopped at a candy store and bought a powder blue bear and a huge bag of Valentine's candy. I arrived, shaking and soaking, on my friend's threshold. She stood there, glowing, comfy in sweats, clutching new life, enjoying her snow day.

We sat as she fed her tiny son. She told me about her labor. It was not a simple story. But its ending was magnificent. Her son is absolutely precious and I have never seen her so happy. I stayed for a bit. She showed me the nursery, the schools of fish on a bright blue wall. I watched her change a diaper.

And then I said goodbye. And, through the slush, I made my way home. To my own girls. Toddler was napping, but Baby was zooming about, flashing that impossible smile, emitting a string of infectious giggles. I had no choice but to do a little work - proofing the final mechanicals for my book cover (no, I have no idea what that means).

And then, cruelly, I had to leave again. Husband, Mom and I trudged a short distance through the snow to the Museum of Natural History where we attended the North American Launch of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was slated to speak, but because of the blizzard, he and certain others were not able to make it. But so many of us did and we packed in under that glorious Blue Whale. In that room where Husband and I danced and started our life together a little over five years go.

Life. Indeed that was the topic of the night. We sat and listened to all the ways in which we humans, with our hubris and ignorance, are threatening biodiversity, and with it life as we know it. We were treated to a sneak peak of a Discovery Channel's forthcoming documentary Life. The film, narrated by Lady Oprah herself, highlights the extreme behavior of extraordinary animals. Last night, we watched a Venus Flytrap capture an unsuspecting and hungry fly and witnessed the Common Basilisk - aptly dubbed the Jesus Christ Lizard - sprint across water. The footage is unbelievably exquisite. But not nearly as exquisite as the life it captures.

Through the snow, we walked home, clutching pamphlets on biodiversity, on extinction. On life.

At home, things were quiet. The girls were sleeping. Husband and I watched a little American Idol and climbed into bed. And I slept hard. It was a long day.

It was not just a long day. It was a circular one. A day on which I glimpsed death and life and life and death. A day on which I participated in a grand goodbye. And a small hello. A day on which I was pummeled with the reality that we - all of us - are threatening the life of big whales and goofy plants and amazing lizards.

And now. It's 6:23am on the morning of a new day. And now. Chilled by an icy awareness, shrouded in a good kind of exhaustion, sipping my way awake, I can't help but think of a song from The Lion King. One you might know.

From the day we arrive on the planet And blinking, step into the sun There's more to see than can ever be seen More to do than can ever be done There's far too much to take in here More to find than can ever be found But the sun rolling high Through the sapphire sky Keeps great and small on the endless round

It's the Circle of Life And it moves us all Through despair and hope Through faith and love Till we find our place On the path unwinding In the Circle The Circle of Life

On this Thursday morning, still dark but getting brighter, I look out the window at snow on branches. I gaze out and think of beginnings and ends, of life and death. Of the path unwinding. Of that circle that holds us all.

The girls are up. Toddler just tugged my arm and asked for a peanut butter and jelly muffin. Baby just brought me two plastic bowling pins. I need more coffee. I must get back to my life.



Did you have snow yesterday? If so, how did you spend the day? Have you ever had a day like this, an exquisitely exhausting day, on which you experienced of the circle of life and death? How much, if anything, do you know about the biodiversity crisis? Do you or your kids love the Lion King too? (Isn't Simba the cutest?)

Icing & Insecurities

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