This time of year, three of my favorite things — football, teaching, and family – all make my world spin at dizzying speeds. And while I try valiantly to juggle all three, there are just some days – and weeks – where things get out of balance, and I must regroup. This was one of those weeks.

To calm the chaos, I found comfort and joy in a couple of shaggy-haired boys with sheepish grins, a movie mystery with really, good friends, and hay bales.

I’ll start with the hay bales. Yes, hay bales. They make me happy. They’re so simple. They’re so round. They’re so simply and perfectly round. And they smell so good. Like sunshine and fresh air. And they send tiny little flecks of their sunshine-smell up into the actual air, where they dance around in the actual sunlight like flying little flickering fairies of dusty hope. I love them. They make me sneeze, but oh, how I love them — big, round, sneezy blessings of promise and hope.

This time of year, the landscape is trimmed with their texture– giant swells of them collect in the fields of my hometown like nub on sweaters, or they nudge up to the fence lines in scalloped hedgerows.

I get this calm in my soul when I see them. I can be totally caught up in the chaos of my day – the football frenzy and the toddler tornadoes and the holiday plans still not set – but when I pass by these laid-back haystacks I feel… better. It’s hard to explain.

In a world full of jagged edges and complexity, sometimes it’s just nice to see roundness and simplicity. They are gentle reminders that the storms of today will mellow into the golden grains of tomorrow. All shall be well. But they are also gentle reminders that time marches on and seasons change, and we should embrace the present, no matter the chaos that swirls around it.

I passed hay bale after serene hay bale on the way to the movies yesterday for the opening weekend of Murder on the Orient Express. I am an absolute sucker for some Dame Agatha and her mustachioed-marvel, Hercule Poirot (second only to Sherlock Holmes in my whodunit hero worship).

The movie was breathtakingly beautiful, with sweeping vistas of Balkan mountain ranges and Edwardian opulence. And Poirot and his little grey cells never disappoint. But it was the time spent with my besties that made it perfection.

If I love hay bales for their simplicity, I love detective movies for their ability to deconstruct complexity — to unravel chaos and lay it out in a seamless, satisfying denouement. Now I know the world isn’t so easily solved. I know that dangers and sickness and sorrow exist (my two besties have battled their fair share in the past year), and there’s not much that can be done to dismantle the darkness and wipe it all clean. But mystery movies with best friends certainly help sideline the darkness for a bit, and oh, how I love the distraction — big, surround-sound distraction with true-blue friends.

And then there’s my shaggy-haired rapscallions with sheepish grins — their hair a mixture of hay straw and loam, their faces a mixture of shimmer and shenanigans. They leave riptides of Legos and crushed Cheetos in their wake. But even through all the bruised heels and stained carpets, they bring me such joy — such breathtaking, heart-splitting joy. Today they’ve both cuddled me and clobbered me on more than one occasion. But oh, how I love them so! From the minute they were conceived — tiny little round he-bales of embryonic perfection – they’ve complicated everything. And they’ve simplified everything.

They add chaos to my world, and calm to my soul.

Yes, this week, the world has spun in super-duper, frenetically-fast fashion. There’ve been playoffs and family gatherings and end-of-course exams to plan for and prep. And I love it all. I really, really do. But I also feel jittery and disjointed at times. And that‘s where my friends and family and hay bales come in. They bring comfort and joy from the Heart Land.

comfortandjoy