By Wendy Hodge
It’s another rainy Monday morning, and the radio in my van is blaring more pandemic news in between country songs. My shoes are soaked through to my socks, and I really just want to go back to bed. But Mondays are even more relentless than COVID, and I am essential enough to have a job waiting for me. On the seat next to me is my much-used and weathered Auburn University canvas tote bag that goes with me everywhere. It’s heavy enough to trigger the seat belt light on my dashboard telling me to buckle up my passenger. I’ve actually done this – strapped that bag in like it’s a 2nd grader – just to make the light stop blinking at me.
But just now, hustling into the van to get out of the rain, I felt something give and hang loosely behind me. The handle on my bag ripped apart, finally giving in to the strain of carrying my stuff from one place to another. Still sitting in the driveway, I dig through the bag trying to make sure I didn’t lose anything and wondering just how I’m going to find another perfect bag to house these essentials.
There’s my lunch – leftovers from the feast my best friend and I cooked this weekend. That man works magic on lemon pepper chicken wings. There’s a 2-liter Coke – because caffeine is my salvation/vice. My latest cross stitch projects are in a pouch with a few dozen skeins of thread, a ruler, several pair of scissors, and more needles than I can count. There’s a makeup bag – because the days of being lovely without a little assistance are at least a decade behind me. Toward the bottom of the bag I spy my hair dryer (because rainy days far outnumber clear ones these last couple of months) and my flat iron (because my hair, like my face, needs some assistance these days). There’s also a spare pair of socks, a Scentsy bar (another addiction of mine), a six of diamonds that must have fallen in my bag during our last frantic game of Spoons, and a bag of Cheerios (don’t judge – I like to snack).
Buried underneath all that, I see my day planner peeking out, and I am instantly taken back to the day I bought that planner. It was right after Christmas, when the world had never heard of coronavirus and face masks were not part of our daily wardrobe. I’d gone to Michaels to look at crafts and Christmas sales. And there I’d found the perfect planner for my busy life. For years, that’s been my New Year treat to myself because what’s better than a lovely, perfectly clean, un-written-in planner? All those pages just waiting to be filled with the fun and the mundane and the busy-ness of life. And this year I had found a planner that met all my criteria – large enough space to write in, plenty of room for sticky notes and shopping lists, and lovely from front to back. Yes, it weighed a ton, but it was exactly what I’d wanted to see me through 2020.
Ah, sweet irony.
I sit here, with the rain sliding down the windshield, and flip back through the pages. The first couple of months have plenty of notes neatly written in, lists scratched off and completed, and reminders to myself. But somewhere around the beginning of March, the writing becomes sparse and then just halts altogether. No more frantic-looking reminders to “stop by Walmart” or “fill up the tank before Tuesday!” There are no appointments pending; no chore lists left unfinished. Flipping forward there is a week blocked off in June for a vacation that will now most likely not happen, and I sigh with disappointment.
But then I glance over at the gaping bag on the seat and see my bottle of calamine lotion. My best friend put it in my hand last night and insisted I take it home with me, even though I hate the sticky pink of it. His poison ivy is almost gone. Mine, on the other hand, waited until I had bragged about apparently being immune to it to finally show itself all over my arms and legs. And I can’t help but smile with the memory of all that we accomplished this past weekend and every weekend since he moved to his new house.
We’ve pulled down and torn away mounds of ivy. We’ve planted lilies and impatiens, coneflowers and dahlias. I’ve learned a whole new vocabulary – lithodora, phlox, salvia…. I love how these sound when we say them to each other from across the yard. We’ve built elevated vegetables gardens with tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and cantaloupe. And, to my absolute wonder, my idea for a vertical herb and flower potted garden using a pallet and some plastic pots looks like a magazine picture… if I do say so myself!
And oh the treasures we’ve found! Underneath the ivy and ancient shrubs were buried a statue of an angel with a bird in her outstretched hands and a wrought-iron sundial. The angel has been repaired and placed in the backyard under a flourishing dogwood tree. She is imperfect and lovely. And the sundial…. It is a thing of wonder. It is weathered and heavy and bears this inscription: BE AS TRUE TO EACH OTHER AS THIS DIAL IS TO THE SUN. Is that not just the loveliest thing? It’s been cleaned and centered in a flower bed in front of the house because that’s right where it belongs.
It turns out that a life measured by seasons and harvests and card games and meals shared is infinitely more satisfying than check marks on a To Do list. So I’ve traded my day planner for a sundial. And even when it’s safe to hug your friends and shakes hands with a stranger, I plan to plan less and live more and continue to always be as true to my best friend as the dial is to the sun.
Hodge is an Opelika native, an empty nester and lover of all things Opelika.