Monday, January 9, 2012

Walking Around The Neighborhood

So far we've had a mild November, a mild December, and a fairly mild January. I'm glad. It's given us a chance to have some nice walks around the neighborhood. We've walked the streets of our neighborhood for eleven years. I've walked alone. I've walked with Eileen. And then there has always been "Daddy and the kids." Spontaneous walks don't often involve the whole family; usually it's one parent and some kids. I hope that will change, now that Josefina is finally getting big enough.

New Year's Resolution: Walks for the whole family. We should plan them.

The other day, I was out with the four oldest (Josefina and Mommy didn't come). I've been walking with this crew for years, since the days when nine year old Teresa was in a stroller. They were all so little. I had to shepherd them to the side of the road all the time (we don't have sidewalks out here). Now they're a competent and capable crew. But they are still young. They keep me young at heart.

This is our neighborhood in the Shenandoah Valley, where we walk out our front door and gaze at some of the oldest mountains in the world. It's too easy to take it for granted. This is such a wonderful place. We are within a ten minute drive of so many things, yet this is a quiet spot. If we had more money, we'd probably move somewhere else, but I don't think we'd be more happy than we are right here.

This is our estate, in the bright cold sun of a January afternoon. In the summer, the trees are so full that it's hard to see the house. The bareness of winter has it's own beauty, revealing hidden vistas and giving us a more ample horizon. It lets us see the sun setting closer to the base of the trees that surround us all through the neighborhood, and it reveals more of the colors and shades of the sky. When the weather is mild, winter can be charming in Virginia.

Yes, we live in the famous Valley. It seems as though half the streets around here are named after the heroes of the Army of Northern Virginia. Stonewall Jackson marched not far from here, and the echoes of that epic and traumatic and terrible war--which some people call "the first modern war" --still shake these trees.

In our time it is a peaceful place, and yet no one can say how long that will last. What will this year bring? What events loom in the future? No one can say. But we do have this afternoon, and the kids and I can enjoy it. I love being involved in their lives. I have had to slow down many things, and sometimes I have felt frustrated by that fact, but I do have time for the children. This is something that I will never regret. And I can see that it has done them good.

One week ago, I turned 49 years old. I do not think of us as "old parents," but rather as having a "young family." Some of my friends are already grandparents, which is nice because it shows us that it is possible to survive the upcoming stages in our own family history. In mind and aspiration, I feel ten or more years younger than I am. Josefina's teenage years are going to take me well into my sixties, God willing, so it's just as well that I stay youthful in spirit.

But I always tend to get ahead of myself. These days are blessed. I am grateful for them. I can do something today that is good, that builds up my children, my friends, perhaps even you who are reading this.

This is something that we must also remember when we are in pain, or when we are alone. How hard it is to remember, when we are afflicted. The goodness of reality is something we know when we watch the glowing sky through the trees on a winter afternoon. The moments of pain are also mysteriously good. Could it be possible that, in the end, emptiness wins? Never.

Here I am, relaxing in front of someone else's estate (hahaha!):