A little over a year ago, back when I wished I had more time for writing, I wrote this:
When morning comes glistening
And the man in the beat-up Ford rides with his windows down in the steamy summer morning
And on his back bumper are stickers of guns and “repent….Jesus is coming soon” right next to each other
And he turns on his signal and eases over in front of me, his arm that has been hanging out his window waves at me, slowly, in a way that suggests we’re somewhere on a back country road in Iowa rather than the mix-master over Dallas, Texas at rush hour on a Thursday morning…
…all things are possible in the glistening morning
My imagination lives in eternity
Now I find myself, a little over one year later, in a place my imagination could not have dreamed up in all the eternities it had ever known.
I sit on the back step of a little house on the central coast of California, facing east. Somewhere, a few miles behind me is the great Pacific Ocean. Directly in front of me, I watch the pre-dawn hours turn into a new glistening morning, as the golden sun rises behind the palm trees that continually lift their arms heavenward. I watch my beautiful orange cat, who has now become fully Californian, jump up on the fence next to me, trying to get a glimpse of his slightly less orange buddy who lives next door. He never really knows what to do once he catches that glimpse though. His back arches slightly and his tail bushes out in anticipation while he waits. I hear a bird calling out in a long, flutish whooooo, as he gently circles, wings spread wide, before landing on the uppermost branch of the tallest tree around. It sways slightly under his weight while he sits there, taking in the view of this glistening morning. I sense my family, sleeping peacefully in the tiny house behind me and my heart longs for the fullness of all that has been and all that is to come for each of them.
I did not know that we would be here, a little over one year ago. I did not know that we would find men in beat-up Fords, with their arms hanging out of their windows, driving their trucks directly onto the powdery sand of the beach, with gigantic two-sided flags waving off the back of their tailgates: one side American and one side Confederate. I did not know how difficult it would be to find a place of our own to live. I did not know how amazing it would feel to sit out here, in layers of clothing, wrapped in a big blanket, drinking my coffee and taking the time to write, while watching the eastern sky turn from deepness to rose-streaked to golden.
Eternity can be challenging to the imagination.
Then we sail into the shiny sea
The weight that drags your heart down
Well, that’s what took me where I need to be
And so we have arrived.
As I begin to get my bearings, I am coming closer and closer to acknowledging that this is indeed a huge, huge thing that we have done. I’m not totally there yet, because there is still way too much surrealness to allow for true acknowledgement. But I’m coming close. And maybe it’s not something we have done at all. Or a-tall, as one of my favorite priests likes to say. I mean, obviously, we have done a lot. We sold our house, packed everything up, shipped it somewhere (not to our new house because we don’t have one yet! Ha! Our stuff currently resides some three hours south of us while we try to find a place of our own…), and then we made the drive out here with two kids and a cat. But this whole thing; this whole huge, huge thing; this thing was outside of us. We have been propelled here, and we did what we could do make the flight fun. But we were definitely flung, with limbs all akimbo and voices raised in that anticipatory joy that comes awfully close to terror. And somehow we have now landed in this beautiful place with these beautiful people and we keep flipping around, like a dog looking for that elusive tail, wondering if this is really real and if that tail is even catchable a-tall.
And so while I try to catch my breath, I share with you these pictures from our last week in Dallas. From the birth of our newest godson, to the music and the laughter and the tears and the goodbyes. And I know that I am full to the brim with love and for that I am very, very thankful.
Which led to an impromptu singing of Van Diemen’s Land:
Now, if we could only catch our breath (and possibly that tail); maybe then we could just float for awhile on this tide that’s bound to go down again any day now…
May is here. May has a history of doing me in. May is December on steroids. It is only the 3rd day of May, so I figured I would real quick try to post something while I still have words left in my head. Even if the words can’t speak in complete sentences. But at least they’re still there even if they make no sense.
We are moving.
I have a new nephew. He is the cutest and his name is Luke and I cry when I think about how long my brother and sister-in-law have waited for him. He couldn’t be more perfect.
Water heater burst. Flooded Grace’s room. In the middle of trying to sell the house. Heaters and fans and dehumidifiers now fill our house ONCE AGAIN. As do boxes.
Girls’ spring play. Heart full. Sleep deprived.
Blood vessel burst in eye. Again.
Sadie…18….done with high school…senior pictures…
Nope. Can’t do it. I’ll let the pictures speak their thousand words each.
Five minutes ago I gave birth to my second daughter on the floor of my bedroom, surrounded by family and friends and skilled professionals. She looked nothing like I expected, with her dark red skin and the black downy hair that covered most of her body and the eyebrows that met in the middle, still coated with vernix, making them look gray like an old man’s. She looked nothing like my first daughter. She was my beautiful, wonderfully-made Sadie, and my heart nearly exploded with love and happiness.
Five minutes from now, my second daughter will graduate from high school in the sanctuary of our church, surrounded by family and friends and skilled professionals. Her life has looked nothing like I expected, tied up as it has been with mine and her dad’s and her sisters’ and all the five minute increments that have led us from one place to the next while we have all grown older together in the most unexpected of ways. She is my beautiful, wonderfully-made, lovingly-raised, deep-feeling, multi-layered, swirling storm of a Sadie whose eyes get all squinty and twinkly when she smiles and who makes my eyes leak water when she sings. My heart nearly explodes with love and happiness and fear and pride and thankfulness for her life.
Five minutes ago we moved into this home with our three precious little ones, surrounded by family and friends and unskilled, unprofessionals, who selflessly helped move the heaviest of bookcases and beds and even a piano (in August…in Texas) into the place that would know unimaginable memories over the next eleven years, here at the end of our quiet cul-de-sac in a suburb of Dallas. We have settled as we never knew we could as we grew and changed in the most unexpected of ways. We imagined growing old here as all the kids and grandkids came and stayed for all the Christmases to come.
Five minutes from now we will be moving. Away from Dallas. Across the country. To the west coast. We will watch our second daughter graduate from high school, we will sell this house and we will move and we will become a part of a new wonderful life with new wonderful people in a new wonderful place that has an ocean (AN OCEAN!). We are not skilled nor professional and we don’t really know anybody who can surround us now in any kind of skilled or professional manner as we take this leap into the unknown. But we will be led on by the wind, bathed in the water and fed by the body and blood. And in this most unprofessional of manners, leap, we will. Five minutes from now.
Five minutes ago, my second daughter wrote a song about this upcoming move for her little sister and she sang it at our church’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Feast. Five minutes from now, the words and the sound of this song and my baby girl’s voice will sustain me as I run headlong with my husband and daughters across the fields of yellow into the sea and all the future Christmases that will look nothing like I had imagined. It’s all so very unexpected.
I can’t wait.
Making our way feeling come what may
On a small street corner
In San Luis California
The sun shines bright all day but at night
There’s a cool breeze coming so hold on to me closely
If you need a rain check
My dear, don’t fret
This is home
They strung some lights up the hill beside
Where the ocean lies
So this is this year’s Christmas
And if you want you can doubt while the boys go out
But tomorrow you know that things will be the same
Hold on to your pride
But don’t drag it around
It might rust
Ooh, it’s all right
Just ride your waves in tonight
You and I
We’ll find our way home
Take my hand and we’ll climb to the top of the hill
And look out down below
Where the city lights glow so bright
And the shiny sea that calls out to me
You can join in the fun, we can bask in the sun
And forget about life for awhile
Save your words
Don’t come all undone
Take this time
With me and we’ll run
Across the fields of yellow
And the tall grass that grows in the meadow
Cause now, it’s your time
To fly away
Oh no, don’t cry
Cause you and I
Will find a way home tonight
Yeah baby, you and I
Will find a way home
I did this last weekend:
I did it because my nephew turned seven. I am not seven; I am forty-two. However, I did go roller skating since he was turning seven and his mama and I got roller skates on our feet and it made us feel like we were seven. We held hands and went real fast. When we got to the curve in the rink, I said “Whip me around the corner,” at which point she attempted to stand still (on skates) and whip me. While I went whipping around at somewhere near the neck-breaking speed of 0.5 mph, her body realized that standing still on skates doesn’t work so great (especially when you’re past the age of seven) and she went down. I let go of her hand as she was going down and in the process of correcting my balance, did a few leaps and spins in the air. But, alas. My balance didn’t correct itself and my forty-two year old body went down sideways. When you have wheels on your feet and said wheels fly out from under you, there’s not a whole lot you can do to break the fall. The brunt of the force was taken by my left forearm. As I was still in the air, on the way down, I heard my sister-in-law yelling “THIS IS WHY I DON’T HANG OUT WITH YOU!” And then I hit the rink and I felt my neck snap sideways in slow motion.
And then we stayed there, sprawled out exactly as we fell, laughing and laughing, while employees skated over to make sure we were okay. Okay is a relative term but yes, we were okay.
And now I have this super cool bruise and a not-so-cool sprained feeling in my wrist to show for it. And I sit at my computer at my desk at work and answer some 500 emails per day with said sprained wrist. Yes, I exaggerate. But not much.
And to top it off, this morning I went into my daughter’s room to turn off her lights that somehow never turn themselves off. One of those lights is on the far side of her bed and the only way to get to it is by navigating the obstacle course that masquerades as a floor. I gave it my best shot and somehow managed to step on both the computer and the cat at the same time, as they both hid there among all the clothes, shoes and makeup. As the cat [noisily] alerted me to his existence, I flew forward onto the bed, catching myself with….. my sprained left wrist.
All I have to say now is ouchiewawa.
But don’t I have a lovely view from my office on this beautiful rainy day?
I know it’s been a long, long time since I last wrote here. Sometimes people ask me about it. I always say that I think I’ll write again someday but not today. I guess someday is here, although this seems like a very odd post to come back with.
Maybe it will be my last, in which case it seems like a very odd post to end with.
BY W. S. MERWIN
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible