The new year is but a few days old. It is not yet Epiphany. The 12 days of Christmas are still being celebrated in some places. Not this one. At Sandhill, Christmas is over.
Lured outside by Alexa’s self-assured voice telling me that it is 68 degrees (not warm, but warm enough to walk), I realize halfway across the yard that Alexa cannot be trusted. The wind is cold and angry. My eyes begin to water as my face is slapped with dust that has been turned into spinning tops.
There is a stand of pine trees up ahead that should be a buffer. The stiff needles will trap the wind in their stickiness, confuse it in their denseness and send it back into the branch from which it came. The closer I get, the clearer it becomes that I am wrong. If the trees do anything at all, they concentrate the wind into an intense series of gusts.
I plow forward another quarter mile or so, leaning into the wind and grumbling under my breath, before deciding to bow my head (It is already bent to my chest) in defeat. I don’t have to do this, I say to myself. This is not fun, I say to myself. I will just turn around, I say to myself and the wind will be at my back.
Except it isn’t. The wind is not at my back as I reverse direction. The wind blows where it will and it wills, at this exact moment, to spin itself 180 degrees.
One of my favorite words is epiphany. (I am also particularly fond of gob-smacked, juxtaposition, exacerbated and awestruck.) It is from the Greek word “epiphaneia,” which means “bringing light.” Up until the 17th century, epiphany was a strictly liturgical term and was spelled with a capital letter, but by the 19th century it had — without the capital letter — come to mean “a sudden insight or revelation” or “a moment of sudden understanding of something important.”
The change in wind direction, the contradiction of what I thought I could expect, is producing an epiphany. I recognize the signs — I feel my eyes growing larger, I feel my breath enlarging my chest, I pause my steps without intending to — but I cannot articulate what it is. There are no words. Not yet.
January 6 — Epiphany, with a capital letter – comes and goes. A few days after, I pick up a book and notice that I have — on some previous reading — underlined this from Marcus Aurelius, “There is nothing nature loves so well as to change.”
I stare at the words. I bristle. Despite what I have said about wanting to clean out the attic, wanting to have fewer migraines and wanting to wear fewer black dresses in 2023, I do not love change. I never have. I have — and still wear — clothes I bought in the early 2000s. I have lived on the same dirt road since 1974. I count among my dear friends people I met in first grade.
I read the quotation again, in its entirety this time: “Get used to thinking that there is nothing nature loves so well as to change.”
Get used to it? Become accustomed to the idea? Accept it as truth?
And, suddenly — so I can be sure that this is, in fact, an epiphany — the words come. The words the wind was howling into my hesitant ears.
Yes. The answer to the questions, all the questions, is yes. Get used to the fact that life, not mine or anyone else’s, will never be neat and tidy. Become accustomed to the reality that pain, even as I resist it, serves a purpose, if only as a reminder of what it means to be in health. Accept as truth that death will come to everyone I love and, until it comes to me, I will put on black dresses and bear witness to their lives.
I can learn to love not just change, but the process of changing. I can embrace not just the idea, but the opportunity. I can. In the light of epiphany, but only in that light.