Two songs in, beads of sweat have already formed on my brow. I’ve not done much singing yet, just movement. Soon, my bouncy, curly hair will become wet and stringy, my feet will go numb in their 4” designer heels and the perspiration will overtake my face, neck and chest, but I don’t care. The energy onstage is pulsating; the excitement from the crowd, intoxicating.
There isn’t much time to mop up the sweat, or gulp sips of water. Brian has his Vixens on stage for all but three songs in the entire show. He features us vocally in two separate solos, and invites us to join the trio set to spread a little “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Blue Christmas” cheer. (Never mind that last paradox.)
When it’s time to “Rock This Town”, the entire venue is on their feet, screaming, clapping, dancing and cheering. It takes hours to come down from such a high. My ears ring a bit and my face hurts from grinning, but every night on stage is worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
A few days ago, we had a show in Peoria, Illinois. We drove overnight from Nashville, and arrived in Peoria around 8 in the morning. I stirred from my cozy bunk on the bus and dragged my luggage to my hotel room. Outside, the weather slowly warmed from a brisk 19 to a tolerable 34 degrees. The sun was shining happily and the sky illuminated a deep, clear blue.
I decided to take a walk. The last time I had been in such a small town in Illinois was in 2009.
I distinctly remember the toy trains in our hotel lobby, slowly chugging their way through overgrown, overly lit Christmas wreaths and past an astounding assortment of Nutcracker and ballerina figurines.
A single, fake daisy was glued into the bottom of a red, bulbous vase and placed atop every three-legged continental breakfast table. The lone cereal dispenser was surprisingly low on Cheerios and high on Frosted Flakes.
I ventured outside to see what else Aurora had to offer. The sky was dismally grey and there was cold, hard snow on the ground. My boots, although warmly lined, had a small heel on them, so I slipped across the ice on my way towards the Fox River.
When I reached the bridge, I stopped for a moment, and noticed something moving in the icy water.
I stared at the birds in horror. First of all, I know nothing about ducks or their migratory patterns, but something didn’t seem right.
What the quack are these ducks doing, swimming through the ice? Why didn’t they fly south? How will they find food? It’s too cold for them to be out here. How will they survive?
I was so concerned for the ducks, I felt I should find the nearest convenience store, buy a loaf of bread, and feed them. But all that was in the vicinity of the poor mallards was a shoe repair shop, and a flashy casino filled with smoking gamblers, dragging their oxygen tanks from slot machine to slot machine.
So I stood, frozen, on that bridge. Helpless. Helpless to help the ducks.
Gentle snowflakes began to fall, and I started to cry.
I cried for the ducks and their unknown fate. I cried for their struggle with life in the frozen wintertime. I cried at not being able to help them. Additionally, I was slightly angry with them for not having gotten away when they had the chance. They were stuck in the ice and snow, until spring awakened warmth and new life.
The snow started to flurry harder and I shivered in my thin, wool coat. Dejected, I turned and walked back to the hotel, wiping away tears. I said a prayer for the birds and hoped they’d make it.
I wanted out of Illinois as soon as possible.
Peoria, 2012: As I approached the riverfront, the whipping wind took me by surprise. At the same time, the sun warmed my face and the crisp air felt refreshing.
I gazed out at the river. No ducks. Instead, a lone seagull flew overhead.
I chuckled a bit at the memory of the ducks in Aurora. In my desperate and compassionate concern for them, I couldn’t see they were surviving the season in their lives that day. They might have been cold, but they were swimming. They were surviving. There was nothing else they could do, but keep on.
Winter doesn’t last forever. Seasonal days aren’t always harsh and grey. Sometimes they can be warm and gentle. I think even the ducks know this.
And the most beautiful thing of all: spring is coming.