Postcard from the Prairie: The Simple Things

Posted by Eliza Blue on

In the half darkness of the bedroom, the baby watches his hand in amazement. He twirls his chubby fingers in front of his eyes, and makes a soft sound of surprise at the way the shadows curl around the corners of his skin. The wintry dawn light shifts through the muslin curtains and catches the clear blue of his wide eyes. It is the same blue he was born with--his eyes haven't changed a bit--they still glow like a field under a full moon. He turns his head and sees me watching him. He smiles. He hasn't been sleeping well lately, so neither have I, but in this moment I don't mind.

Last night, snow fell. It is spread thinly across the yard, and already worn green and brown in patches from Ellie, the sheep dog's wanderings, but it is the first snow nonetheless. After my husband does his chores, I do mine. It's cold. I can feel the frost shimmer in my lungs when I inhale.The calves were in with Rita last night, so I don't milk, just heft a few forkfuls of heavy, green hay over the fence. I do the same for Elsa and Fifi, the Shetland sheep. They are still in the corral by the barn so we can tame them down, and their soft, black noses follow me as I walk past. They need a bit of grain, then water, and Rita needs her pan of cake.

Outside the barn door, the air is misty from the low clouds and snow, the light strangely bright.  Past the yard, and yard fence, the seed heads on the tall grass sway like a thousand upended pendulums. They are the golden brown of toasted bread, suspended between the milky swirls of earth and sky. I stop my work for a moment, suspended as well, caught between the world of my body in motion, heavy and sleep-deprived, and another world that contains bright coins of magic.

Back in the warm kitchen, my husband is drinking black coffee and chatting with the baby across the smooth formica of the center island. A friend made us a wooden chair that hooks over the counter ledge so our son can sit up at the island just like his Dad. He loves the chair--loves the freedom of sitting alone, loves to be part of the morning routine. He already seems part boy, part man leaning there, his belly against the ledge. He pounds his palms against the white surface, and growls in delight at the sensation and the sound. A few more smacks, and he is laughing out loud, so pleased with himself and the wondrous racket he is making. I step inside, and both boys turn to greet me. "Oh my," I think, "What a wonderful life."

All of this is to demonstrate why, despite the cold, despite the darkness, this is my favorite time of year. Plus, there is Christmas, which I love unabashedly. But, Christmas also feels a little complicated these days, because I worry too much -- worry about presents, and what to get for whom. I worry that if I don’t do enough, the people I love won’t feel cherished. I am also weary of the rampant materialism that pervades almost every aspect of our life these days, and I want something different for my son. So, while I am worrying about what to get other people, I am secretly hoping that none of them will get anything for him.

You see, I want the beauty of the world to be enough for my boy. Right now, his hands are miracles--he can't believe his good fortune every time he tries to use them and finds they still work. Soon he will discover that his legs can carry him wherever he wants to go. By this time next year, he will know that ginger and molasses on the countertop leads to gingerbread, that Christmas means the glow of candles in church, the hymns everyone knows so we can all sing together, the smell of pine needles, and the crinkle of paper ornaments crafted by his growing hands.

Sure, Santa will leave a few treasures in his stocking, but I want it to be his voice that makes the rumbling sounds of the engine, his hands that move the toy's wooden wheels across the rough tile of our kitchen floor, and I want it to be the golden feathers of a cedar waxwing swinging in the chokecherry tree that distract him from his play. I want the beauty of these simple things to be enough for him.

I know it's a lot to ask in this day in age, when there are so many shiny things clamoring for our attention--and maybe it always has been. I want the beauty of the world to be enough for him, but I also want it to be enough for me. I want to stop worrying so much. I want to be distracted by the cedar waxwing in the chokecherry tree too, instead of the drifting anxiety about what to get for whom. How can I so easily lose sight of the big, beautiful world that surrounds me? How can it be so easy some days to forget that I have the most wonderful life?

I know the solution is to stop, take a breath, and actually pay attention. My son does this now without any effort, but it won't always be easy for him either. Which is why I am going to do my best to give us both the gift of simplicity this Christmas season, and the seasons to come. I want there to be plenty of room in our lives to cradle wonder in our hands like it is a small bird, nesting for just a moment before it flies up and away, a feathered speck against the bright blue heavens.

Eliza Blue is a singer, a writer, a musician, a mother, and a South Dakotan. You can find her at LittlePastureOnThePrairie.com.

subscribe to sdpb email updates food blog link image learning blog link image living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Related content from SDPB Radio - Art

Students Make Art Real Through Poetry Out Loud

Shakespeare isn’t boring to Kassondra Gooley. The West Central High School senior talks about poetry the way some...

Photographer Paul Horsted

In the Moment ... March 12, 2018 Show 294 Hour 1 Photographer Paul Horstead discusses Custer's expedition, the...

Keith Knight, Gentleman Cartoonist

In The Moment ... February 26, 2018 Show 284 Keith Knight joins In the Moment host Lori Walsh for a conversation...

"Glorious Fourth Of July" By Mary Gibson Sprague

In The Moment ... February 7, 2018 Show 272 Hour 1 Mary Gibson Sprague has a new book featuring the artwork and...

Books

Lisa Mosconi Discusses Her New Book "Brain Food"

The Alzheimer's Association reports 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer's, one of our most feared disease...

"The World Is Awake" With Joseph Bottum & Linsey Davis

In The Moment ... February 27, 2018 Show 285 Hour 2 Linsey Davis is an award-winning journalist and correspondent...

Celebrating "Frankenstein" With Joel Pace

In the Moment ... February 26, 2018 Show 284 Hour 1 The University of South Dakota honors 200 years of Mary Shelly's...

Executive Nancy Dahl On Corporate Leadership

In The Moment ... February 21, 2018 Show 281 Hour 1 Nancy Dahl joins In the Moment host Lori Walsh for a...

Music

Moment In Sound With Paul Larson

In The Moment ... April 13, 2018 Show 315 Hour 1 Cowboy musician Paul Larson drove through the blizzard this morning...

Moment In Sound With Chris Holm

In The Moment ... April 6, 2018 Show 310 Hour 1 Minneapolis-based artist Chris "Heatwave" Holm plays Crow Peak...

South Dakota Symphony Orchestra Preview: Delta David Gier, Martin Kuuskmann, and Paul Moravec

In The Moment ... April 6, 2018 Show 310 Hour 1 The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra is in concert this weekend in...

Moment In Sound: Darin Kaihoi

In The Moment ... March 23, 2018 Show 303 Hour 1 Sioux Falls musician Darin Kaihoi joins us for this week's Moment...

Theater

Broadway Choreographer Chet Walker

In the Moment ... April 9, 2018 Show 311 Hour 1 The University of South Dakota Theater Department presents "Cabaret"...

Images of the Past: Stage To Screen

In The Moment ... November 27, 2017 Show 227 Hour 2 A new exhibit at the Old Courthouse Museum tells the story of...

Personalities: From Huron High to Broadway

Singer, actor, and teacher Joseph Mahowald graduated from Huron High School in 1977. He went on to study music and...

In The Moment ... Alex Meyer's Scenic Design

In The Moment ... May 10, 2017 Show 090 Hour 2 Alex Meyer. He's a junior art and theater major at Augustana College...