The wings of the midnight crow beat in high contrast to the deep grey sky. Naked trees stretch bony fingers to the heavens. It’s the day before spring is supposed to arrive and I can’t help but wonder if she’s been left on the platform watching her train snake into the distance. Knives of wind cut through my thin jacket and the air hangs heavy with the last bitter taste of winter herself.
But still, in spite of the haze and the heaviness, I am drawn outside. Bright magenta buds hang low from the branches of the Magnolia tree. Spring has sent her postcard ahead. I hold my jacket close to guard against the cold and wander to the pavilion. The wooden bench, grey with age, is waiting for me. My feet shuffle along the deck trimmed with mold around to the back. Leaning into the rail, I listen to the creek babbling its way down the rocks.
The bench welcomes me like an old friend. I sink into it, limbs as heavy as my heart, and lean my head back against the rough wooden post. But even here there is work to be done. I muster up every ounce of responsibility I have, pull out my laptop, and set to it.
I am looking down when I notice shadows moving across my arm. Late winter sunlight flirts with the ground. It only finds its way out sometimes, of course, because the clouds still hang heavy. But in the thin places it shines through and shapes flutter.
Thin places—a Celtic phrase for the places where the divine intertwines itself with the ordinary and they dance.
Thin. That’s how my heart feels right now. Like one small pull in the wrong direction could rip it in half. But in the thin places I see the divine. It’s the way she slides the tissue box across her desk because I’m starting to cry in her office and I know why but I don’t really know why. And the way she tells me, not in so many words, of course, that she is on my side. That I am where I need to be. That it will get better.
It’s the sweet note from my best friend sent seven months later than intended but arriving with perfect timing. It’s her words that meet me where I am and sink deep into my heart. It’s the assignment to write a poem that becomes a way to detangle the knot of emotions in the pit of my stomach—a poem that, under different circumstances, would mean very little to me. It’s the words on the internet, written by a complete stranger, that feel like they were penned just for me.
And I see glimpses of the divine. Even when he seems distant, even when I don’t feel him there, he sends me these sightings. He breaks through the thin places to say that what I can see is not all there is. That the clouds will not last forever.
By the time I’m out of class for the day the heavy skies have pulled back like drapes from a window. Red-chested robins flit through the lawn and spring whispers that she’ll be here soon. Wherever there is brown border grass flattened by the weight of winter, persistent yellow daffodils push their way through the death to proclaim life. Winter is not the end. The thin places, the cracks, the glimpses of the sun are just the beginning.