Clearing the Calendar

cardinal in snowBy the time you read this column, the knee-deep snow that blanketed middle Tennessee last weekend will almost certainly be gone. But as I settle down to write in front of the big windows in my living room, the white stuff is coming down at a rate we haven’t seen here in a long, long time.

Today’s calendar has been wiped clean, which will almost certainly hold true for the next several days. Folks from colder climes will probably never understand Southerners’ inability to cope with winter, but it’s a fact that we have neither the experience nor the equipment to deal with roads covered in snow and ice. And the truth is, we really don’t want to. Better to make a last-minute run to the store for milk and bread and toilet paper and then take a big eraser to our schedule. School? Cancelled. Church? Cancelled. Meetings and appointments? Cancelled. Social outings? Cancelled.

Being something of a Type-A personality, my first inclination as the snow starts falling in earnest is to start on some at-home projects. Clean out a closet. Straighten a drawer. Balance the checkbook. Catch up on the ironing. Re-organize the file cabinet.

As my head begins to reel with this not-so-fun to-do list, I pull myself up short. I’ve been handed a wonderful gift: a string of empty days with nowhere I have to go and nothing I have to do. Realizing I need a solid downtime plan, I quickly formulate one. Here’s it is.

  • Fill the birdfeeders to the brim
  • Take the dogs for an off-leash romp in the snowy woods
  • Build a snowman
  • Watch whatever I want on TV for as long as I want
  • Read one of the big thick books I’ve set aside for when I finally have time
  • Call and chat with an out-of-town friend I haven’t seen for ages



Now, four days later with the thaw upon us and a column deadline staring me in the face, it’s time to assess how things went. My report? During the snow days, I didn’t mess with closets or drawers or the ironing board or checkbook. But I did spend a lot of time watching birds, which are still swarming my feeders even though temperatures have climbed above freezing. My once-adorable snowman, whose face my dogs chewed off because I used Hershey’s kisses for eyes (I didn’t have any chunks of coal), is melting faster than the Wicked Witch of the West.

On the Friday the snow arrived, I lounged in my pajamas with gas logs blazing and watched four episodes of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” Five SEC basketball games on Saturday. Both NFL play-off games on Sunday. All without guilt. And I’m almost two hundred pages into the 791-page thriller “Natchez Burning,” by Greg Iles. Riveting.

I enjoyed unhurried phone visits with not one but three out-of-town friends.

Best of all, I allowed myself time to sit and do nothing but gaze at the winter wonderland. To contemplate the year just passed, with its unspeakable disappointments and innumerable joys, and to anticipate the year ahead.  To affirm that there’s nothing much lovelier in this world than a red cardinal perched on a snow-covered branch of a dogwood tree, unless it’s an enormous full moon rising over the ghost-white Tennessee mountains.

And to be grateful for the all-too-rare gift of a calendar wiped clean.

(January 31, 2016)