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Leap Day

Sometimes life is wonderful.  And this is one of those days.  Michel Hazanicius, The Artist

I was planning to leap in one direction and then the storm blew in. By noon, on February 29th, the snow was blowing sideways and the streets were barely passable and it had become apparent that my “Leaping” performance scheduled at Joy Center for that evening was going to be a no-go.  So, as the storm gained intensity and the day tipped into afternoon, there I was in my Ishpeming home, staring out at the howling white world and wondering where a gal was supposed to leap when her performance had just been cancelled and she was housebound and clueless as to what to do next.  I looked around me and I saw a blizzard of projects: packages that needed to be mailed, thank-you notes that needed to be written, dishes that needed to be washed.  Sure, I could keep myself busy.  Sure, I could plow my way through the snowbanks of endless chores.  There was enough inside-shoveling to keep me occupied for days.  But it didn’t seem like fun.  It seemed like work.  And that’s when I thought of the quote I’d heard a few nights earlier while watching the Academy Awards.

I love the Academy Awards.  I love the glitter and the glamour, the dresses and the tuxes, the actors, the writers, the directors.  I love the magic of the movies.  This year, I watched the whole extended extravaganza, from red carpet interviews to midnight after-parties.  It was delicious, this immersion into Hollywood and the brilliance of its stars.  And, in all this sparkling excitement, there was one line in a short speech by a French writer/director that stood out for me.  When Michel Hazanicius held up the golden Oscar that he won for directing the movie, The Artist, he looked out into the audience and he said, in his sweet thick French accent, unrehearsed and from the heart, “Sometimes life is wonderful, and this is one of those days.”

So, even though the spotlight might not have been beaming in my direction on Wednesday afternoon and the Upper Peninsula looks nothing like Hollywood during a Leap Day snowstorm and there was no performance in sight, I wondered whether I could conjure up some of that movie star glitz.  After all, I say it all the time in yoga, that we are the stars of our own lives, living center stage in these movies we’re creating.  And I want to create a feel-good movie.  I want to have fun.  I want to say it everyday, that sometimes life is wonderful, and this is one of those days.  So, the first thing I did was light a candle.  And then I shined the light inward.  “What brings you alive right now, Helen?” I asked myself.  “What seems like fun?”  And all afternoon, as the wind shook the windows and the snow clung to the trees, I allowed full-out fun to be my beacon forward.  I puttered in the kitchen.  I snacked on foods that set my taste buds dancing.  I journaled.  I glued and pasted cards into a lovely handmade scrapbook.  I answered the e-mails that have been sitting in my electronic mailbox for a week.  I leaped from room to room, from task to task.  It was a light-hearted dance, a springtime breeze of ease on this bonus day in February.  I slipped on a summer-bright shirt over the winter smart-wool, pulled off the cold-weather beanie that has become my staple and donned the straw fedora that Abby, my cousin the milliner, made for me last summer.  I felt cute.  I felt happy.  I felt like the star of my life.

And it was somewhere in the midst of this stretched-out-wide afternoon of homebound happiness that I found the envelope of photos that my cousin, Diana, (Abby’s big sister) had given me.  It had been sitting on the floor of my creativity room untouched since I returned from Maine two and a half weeks earlier.  And now, in the spaciousness of a bonus day, I had the time to stop leaping and linger over this hodgepodge of old family snapshots.  And later, during an evening when both Cam and I were home – because where else could we be?!? – we sprawled out on the couch, me facing one direction, Cam, the other, our legs entangled in the middle, and we examined these photos, soaked in the stories that they told.  Many told of our movie star, in-the-spotlight moments: my parents beaming bright on the morning of their wedding; my sister, sitting at a table, wide-eyed and wearing a paper crown with the number five emblazoned across its center, candlelit cake in front of her; me and my three siblings plopped down on a wooden lobstertrap, posing for our Christmas picture.

There was one photo, however, dated nineteen forty-three, that stuck out from the crowd.  It was a picture of my twenty-two year old father, and it wasn’t an Academy Award-special-occasion-type-of-moment at all.  It was an ordinary moment, an ordinary-extra-ordinary moment, not unlike the moment that Cam and I, and our cat, Fu Fu Princess, who had jumped up on the couch and joined us, were enjoying now.  And it was delicious.  You could tell that it was delicious for my father, lounging on the floor, probably at the old farmhouse where Diana now lives and where she found the photo.  And it was delicious for his dog, his English Setter, Tops, who was nuzzled up next to him.  And it was delicious for Cam and I and our purring cat, sharing this moment of connection with my father and his beloved dog.

So, there you have it; sometimes the camera focuses in on our movie star moments, and, sometimes, it is the quiet deep-breath of simply being that the flash of a bulb captures.  On Wednesday, the spotlight didn’t shine bright over Joy Center way.  And, I wasn’t glittering in my red carpet finery.  And yet, it was an Academy Award Winner, this unexpected day of housebound leaping, this special deep-breath, no-performance, bonus day.

Ernie and his dog, Tops, lounging on the floor of the Old House; West Point, Maine; 1943

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