I feel as though I’ve lived a hundred lives. Tonight, I dangle at the edge of this one, ever aware of the imminence of the next. As I twist on the end of this silken thread that can only stretch so far before it snaps, I review my past lives while trying to grasp where it is I’m going next. My memories are fuzzy at best, which makes me wonder if the life I’m living now is really just every bit as fuzzy as all the previous ones.
I once took my dad’s alarm clock/radio to a little clearing in the middle of the bushes behind our house in California so that I could take it apart and find out once and for all what was inside that thing. I loved that clearing. It was a completely surrounded area about four times as big as I was, where I could hear and see everything going on outside the bushes, but the outside couldn’t see or hear me. I would take my mom’s broom to sweep the dirt into a perfectly beautiful, pine needle-free floor. It was magical. I’ll never forget the magic of the springs and bolts and sharp things that made up that alarm clock either. But when I discovered that I couldn’t put it back together after weeks of working on it, I left it there in my magical clearing where it would never be found again. I wonder if it’s still there.
I once would sit at the piano in my living room in Oregon for hours at a time every night, working out my emotions through music. I wouldn’t turn the lights on after the sun set. I would often open the windows, even in winter, in the hopes that the boy I was writing the songs for would be out there, in my yard, listening to me pour out my heart in song. And after he saw how true my heart was, he would come running back to me, unable to live without me for one more day. I would sing to him for hours, imagining he was out there listening. When I would go out afterward and find nobody there, I would sit in the cold grass and listen to my love songs mixed tape on my walkman and watch every single car that drove by my house, each time hoping the next one would be him. It never was.
I once had three little girls to care for while living in a 29 foot long trailer in the Sonoran desert of Mexico in the summer. Daytime temperatures would sometimes reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the nighttimes would often not dip below 100. Every evening at 7pm I would start my attempt to get them all settled in for the night, while my husband and the local pastors and the college student team leaders and the high schoolers that came down to help us all summer went out to do the evening ministry. I would wash off the dirt that had accumulated all over my little girls’ bodies and hair, I would give them a bedtime snack, we would read, and play, and sometimes laugh and pray before bed. Other times, it was just a big cry festival between the tired and hot girls and the tired and hot mama. One way or another, they always went to bed with clean, wet hair in their fresh-off-the-clothesline laundered summer jammies. On the lucky nights when it was easy, they would all three fall asleep while there was still light outside. I would go get some frozen M&M’s and a bottle of ice cold Coca-Cola from the kitchen and sit outside my trailer in my lawn chair in the dirt. As the sun set, the nightly lightning show would fill the entire expanse of that desert sky. I would drink in the silence and the bigness along with my Coca-Cola and contemplate all that I had and all that I was thankful for.
Tonight I dangle. I feel as though I’m under that massive desert sky once again. My daughter is getting married and that changes everything. It’s all so big and I’m so small. My instinct is to start crawling back up the threads of this web I have woven and hide in the clearing. I can’t see where life goes from here, which makes it hard to prepare, but I think I have to just go ahead and let myself fall in order to find out.
“For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us places where we didn’t know we didn’t want to go. As we stumble through the crazily altered landscape of our lives, we find that God is enjoying our attention as never before. ”
― Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life