When play was work, and work was play
I kick away the packed and icy snow from the slate walk and it breaks into chunks. Like tectonic plates, the continents move aside to reveal the dark stone underneath.
I am transported back to the elementary school playground. Hour upon hour we played 4-square on that black top. Except on icy days when inch-thick plates of ice prevented access. On those days, with the heel of my snow boots, I pounded and pounded until a few inches and then a few more gave way. Others join in the assault. Occasionally, a large sheet gives way and a shout of triumph rings out.
The school bell sounds. Man, that was a lot of work!
Next recess, we play.
Why is it that 10 inches of new powder on the mountain delights and 10 inches piled high on my driveway derides? Same lovely white sparkle. Same fluffy consistency. Same complete coverage of everything in sight. The difference: perspective. One, I am meant to go out and play in. The other, I must plow through so I can get about my business.
This hits me like a 2×4, having just returned home from a brief skiing vacation in Utah. There, we stayed at the home of some friends at a virtual ski lodge nestled in hills near Park City. Sitting at the breakfast table my view of the mountains through the three story great room window was magnificent. Peak after peak of white, punctuated with evergreens, framed against an azure sky. Nothing compares, yet we haven’t even headed up the mountain.
I am completely dwarfed sitting there. In awe of the mountains and sky, yes, but also in this lodge of a home. Perhaps because mountain majesty rains in on all sides, the homes are gigantic, the expanse of windows taking advantage of every opportunity to show it off. This means the inside is beyond spacious. And so it must be filled to its proportions: furniture is large and plentiful, wall decoration gratuitous, chandeliers and lighting extensive, walkways and hallways and stairwells built to match. Even the kitchen decor has extra. Extra high cabinets, extra counter space, an extra dishwasher, automatic everything. Even the dishware seems pageantry, not a small bowl or a saucer in the lot. Everything is supersized.
And sitting in its midst I feel very, very small. Majesty does this to you. It right-sizes you. But this home, this lodge draws a caution from me. When we live large, we furnish large, appoint large, accessorize large. Because it fits. And living in that space, what’s large seems just right. Because in proportion to all that’s around it, it is. Try to take a picture to demonstrate the largess and you can’t; everything is in proportion. It doesn’t look large at all.
And isn’t that the nature of the “relative.” Proportion is established by comparison. Oh, it’s not that big compared to his house. It’s not that expensive compared to her dress. It’s not that extravagant compared to their vacation. Humans compare. And we will always fall short. But we keep up so we carry on.
Strangely and very lamentably, the view from the breakfast table started to lose its luster by the 3rd day. Still gorgeous, it was no longer breathtaking like it was on the first. I had gotten “used” to it. I was more animated by changes to its look: sunrise glow and sunset amber, a helium balloon taking off, incoming clouds that brought that powder. Much as I had become accustomed to the accommodations: where the light switches were, which bowls to use and how to work the coffee maker.
Grandeur may grab us but life is what drives us, whether to swoosh through the powder or shovel it in high drifts. Many things out there will right-size us, thank God. But because we do tend to get carried away and not even know it, I am so grateful to have the One thing at the center which doesn’t change in size or shape or price or composition. It is so important for our sense of comparison to have something against which all can be measured fairly and accurately and honestly.
One thing that didn’t diminish in that lovely Park City setting was the dark morning sky; pitch, sprinkled with twinkle and glow. The new moon leaning away shyly from the bold glow of a planet, perhaps Jupiter or Venus? Each of the mornings I tiptoed down the wide staircase while all others were asleep and peered out the back picture window. The stars smiled back in greeting with a perfect “W” – the constellation Cassiopeia. I supposed it was for W-endy.
That God, having some fun. Just dashed off a little note for me on the stationery of the morning sky. “Dear child, before you were born I put the lights in the sky. They are mine as you are mine.” Such a small gesture for a God so large, yet so tender, loving and intimate.
Perhaps, had I wandered outside under those stars I would have heard Him chuckle and say, “If she loves this, wait till she sees the room I have prepared for her.”