Grace is not a thing. Apparently, it is a relationship. I learned this after my gone-missing mitten showed up found in the branches of my until-now-allgetoutugly blue spruce tree—the very one which has appeared in several poems with threats to ax the tree down and because of why? Because come the day it’ll get too big for my tiny yard and the neighbors will ask me to trim it down; because it is a shade-hog; because of its noncommittal (weak!) blue coloring, instead of the deep Ponderosa green I’d always wanted in an evergreen. Metaphorically, the blue spruce had let me down.
But then it caught the mitten during last week’s Arctic front when I wasn’t looking. Southpaws made it into the house with me, but Thumbs didn’t. It spent a week out in the elements until I thought one day to look past my front door, past the proverbial beaten path, past the cranberry-hued bushes between here and there. And tadah: there it was. And tadah: Now I have tender feelings for the blue spruce after all this time.
If I were the blue spruce, I wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to wait for me this long. This is to say I’ve not been capable of extending such grace. I’ve been more capable of storming against the river and building angry baskets. I’ve been thinking every mountain is too big.
Then came the day with an invitation to an outdoor Christmas party in the foothills of the Custer Forest, extended by a hand attached to an upuntilnow-bluesprucesortof friend. Imagine: Fording an icy creek floating nothing but satisfied baskets, and arriving at a cabin in the forest filled with a verb: to welcome.
And eighty quarts of homemade chili, and 97 different platters of Christmas goodies, and four golden retrievers nudging against your knees. A campfire and s’mores; two sleds, green and blue, pulled through the snow-packed meadows behind an ATV; generous handshakes and coffee perking on a wood-burning stove. Firewood stacking. Eagles soaring warm drafts above the bare tree tops, and mule deer pausing in the aspen groves. The mountains peering down at us. And the mountains making low.