Gifts

The world is cold, and startlingly deep blue, when I go out. I have woken in the dark before the dark before dawn, and the stars are blazing, blazing. The house is still–not even the dog wakes, when I creep downstairs in my socks, shawl over my arm, and search for shoes in the dark. I shrug into my coat, step outside. Above me, the constellations are staggering. The snow smells like moonlight.

Sparkling with a thousand thousand flecks of frost, the ground is prismed into microscopic rainbows in my flashlight beam. I walk slow, watch the waning moon hang, sinking, the snow, a light fall from the night, swirl across my path. The horses wait, frost on their backs, stamping and snorting like great foggy dragons. I curl my bare fingers into their hay, watch water splash from the pump, fill their bucket with the clear, icy numb.

When I am finished, I stop on the hilltop and turn back. The stars near the horizon have disappeared, soaked into the brilliant orange-gold of the sunrise as it bleeds slowly up the sky. The house is a shadowed silhouette, thin smoke piling up in slow, easy curves from the chimney, dark against the brightening sky. The year has faded.

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We stand at the beginning of such a long stretch of newness, of empty calendar days waiting to be written and written over with everything we will do. The snow piles in drifts around the barn and the galeing wind blows open our doors in the night and we are still learning how to be thankful. I am still learning.

I have spent so many of my moments in the studio, this year past. I raced against the clock every evening trying to get into bed before midnight–and I will do the same now, in these new months we have been given. Sleep is a precious commodity. Without enough of it, I lack the emotional energy to keep from hating myself in class for my body’s limitations or shutting down in rehearsal under the weight of corrections that feel impossible. Without enough of it, new choreography batters into me without sticking, and I’m left groping like a blind woman in the next rehearsal, where everyone seems to know what is happening but me.

There are not enough days a week. Every moment I have is filled already and then some, but there are so many things I am longing to do, to try, to create. The pressure I feel for time, time, time is difficult. With all I want to accomplish, each opportunity I grasp at feels limiting. If I agree to these things, I won’t have space for anything else. But these are the very things I want to have space for. I remind myself that I don’t need to do everything at once. I will be here a long time. There will be this year, and next year, and the next, and the next. Lord willing, there will be decades. I still view the world like a student, one semester at a time, every year a last chance that passes and is lost. It is hard to remember that this is false.

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But I am so thankful for the chances I have managed to hold on to. For the hours to push into this crazy beautiful brutal art I love. For the opportunities I receive like miracles to put the faith my directors place in me to the test. For the years I have to explore and create and to make my life the one I want to live. For the ability to stay here in the heart of the most beautiful place in the world. For the people in my life who are teaching me to cling to gratitude and trust that my life will be directed. How have I been so blessed? Even in the midst of the battle for rest, the fight to balance my need for a paycheck with my desire for air and art, the dread of living alone in a place that should be beautiful to me but isn’t, how have I been given so much?

I want to keep finding, in this new year, how to take with grace all I have been given, and hold it well, and use it well, and make it well. I am so clumsy, and so fearful, and so busy, and so tired. Make me also lissome, wise, steady, at peace. I will never learn to take things one at a time. Maybe instead I can learn to walk slowly when my arms are full, to keep my face forward and my eyes raised. Maybe I can learn to be thankful.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. grannyandpoppy says:

    Anna,  I love the first part of your prose when you talk about your house sitting. Makes me sorta want to get up early and go out in the freezing cold to take care of the animals.   I dislike the second part where you talk negative about yourself. I have the feeling you are always well prepared and I want you to be positive about you!  I want you to practice being positive.  It is going to take practice. Every time you have a negative thought, push it aside and think of something positive. Get a book and keep a list of your positive thoughts. I took a class years ago for women about just this. We women tend to be too hard on ourselves and we need to think in a different way.   We are wonderful and God loves us and wants us to be happy with ourselves. This bit of advice comes from a grandmother who loves you dearly and just wants the very best for you. I want you to love yourself and love what you are doing!  Love Granny

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