Andy and I spend so much time together we develop our own jargon. We began talking about “my pile” and “your pile” concretely—we were talking about piles of papers. “Just put the receipts on my pile” or “I’ll take care of those permits—they are already in my pile.” Later pile became a metaphor for worries or responsibilities….”don’t worry about that, it’s in my pile.” Or who is getting the kids today? “your pile” etc.

Today I was thinking about responsibility piles—everybody has them. We strive to supervise our kids’ piles —to coach them as they learn to manage life’s inevitable piles, but also we try keep their piles small enough so that they can experience carefree time……I remember in college, especially during finals, everybody went on and on, comparing their relative piles. Sometimes we’d have to listen to entire monologues about somebody’s extensive pile….some were sure that they had the biggest pile of all.

With the adults I know, I sometimes wonder if it isn’t more about perception than the actual size of the pile—some people show such grace with manageable piles, others are overloaded with endless piles. Are the sizes of our piles more a function of our personalities than the relative importance of what we do? Are we each destined to live our entire lives with the same sized pile?
Of course, we all experience times with emergency piles. Last week our concerns were for Daniel’s hockey coach and his wife. Their son was born prematurely (by C-Section) so that she (the mother) could then have open heart surgery. Whew, now they had a pile! Thankfully all went well. Those emergency piles put all into perspective for awhile, and certainly made the piles of snow that we moved around this week seem relatively insignificant (although still necessary).

Dad and Mary clear off the roofs as the heavy snow builds up.

Mom snowshoes trails between the buildings.
Even Denali takes her responsibility piles very seriously.

She has the self-appointed job of monitoring the bird feeder.

Spike the pine marten visits on chilly days.

Since the leaping and barking from inside the house doesn’t scare him away, she does have to get outside and clear the area for the birds.
One day after school this week Daniel and I went skating on our Round Lake rink. The sunset was dazzling as we glided around, and when he stopped to ask me for a hug, the instant was so poignant that it gave me prickles behind my eyes. Sweet moments like that remind me to savor experiences , and not to let the apparent urgency of my piles interfere with the way I want to live.