Photo by jppi, compliments of morguefile.com
Sunday around noon we looked out the window. Locust tree seeds were flying. For more than half an hour they literally filled the air, seeds floating like snowflakes everywhere you looked. I thought of the massive locust at the corner of the bee yard. Myself, I would have been depressed. Tempted to a little melancholy. My year’s work, floating off so quickly and all to where? The point was planting a tree. But what were the chances? It’s not like the wind had a plan with all those drifting, wafting little bits of possibility it was throwing around like confetti.
Later I needed fresh air and alone time. My Adirondack chairs aren’t here yet so I got help to carry the worn blue recliner from the house out to the grass underneath the red maple. I brought my notebook and some books. Girl two saw and took off running. I was reaching for my book when she appeared, her own book in hand, climbing up over the arm of the chair.
What are you doing? I asked.
Snuggling, she said grinning, confident she was pleasing me.
I came out here to read, I said.
Me too, she said. So far I’m here. She pointed to a spot on the page of her book. Would you like to read to me?
I took a deep breath and lied. Of course, I said.
We read and laughed until the lie was true.
There is a place inside me, I said by way of moving on to parting, that is just for you. It is a very happy part of me because it is a space belonging to and completely filled by loving you.
She did not pause to picture the place unless she pictured it very quickly.
How much of you is it? she asked.
That’s a tricky question, I said giving myself time to do the math (four kids, my husband, everything else I care about…).
Is my space half? she wanted to know.
No, I said. I watched her face fall and something in me was called forth. No it isn’t half. Your space is bigger than the moon.
That’s not possible, she said trying to hide her delight. That’s bigger than you are.
Ah, but love doesn’t work that way. It’s magical. Love is bigger than we are. Much, much bigger than we are. The spaces for it have to be extremely big to fit it in.
After that she left and I didn’t feel sad for the tree anymore. I wondered where I could buy wizard suits for the children. I feel them sometimes, intentionally or inadvertently, siphoning blood from my veins, asking to share my tiniest spaces. For everybody’s sake, there are times to guard the spaces. There are also times to let them in. To let them wave their enchanted wands. The ones that makes us so much better than we started out to be.
Perhaps all of life is a book of small instructions. We “finished” putting in the garden on Monday, so I’ve got the seeds chapter on my mind. Seeds end up in the dark. In grit and damp they grow roots down and send shoots up. Reach for the light, the chapter says. You need it. Despite the darkness, spread roots of you into the deeps of unknown. Somewhere, there will be water. No telling which direction or how far. Put out your roots knowing some will find little but trusting enough will be found. Meanwhile, aim for the sun. Getting up into the brightness is easier said than done, of course, but it’s the point of everything.
There is a lot I don’t know right now. Especially about writing, but about also about things with the kids, the summer, next year. The future will undoubtedly come, but it is as yet a stranger. Some days I have dreams the size of the sky, other days I plod along with the watering can, and weed without particular belief that whatever crests the dirt will be something I hoped for or simply something that grew.
Girl one’s eyes are haunting me right now. She’s been off in tears at my disapproval more than once in twenty-four hours. No good reason really. She gets out of bed too many times because she can’t sleep. Her sister fell over, seeming to indicate a violent attack, they both say now that Girl one was just standing there. The only days she has really been ready for school on time were when I was teaching and she was still in utero. Toothbrushes, clothes and book bags stand idly by, while Girl one can focus on nothing except her own magical, floating thoughts. All morning, every morning. So the opposite of Amen for me.
Her eyes beg the question of what I’m planting. A glimpse if I’ll take it, of what I don’t want. And a chance to aim for something else. Seeds of realization and longing plant themselves in me. I don’t know whether to water them or let them die. It is courage I lack, not desire.
Two things are true. One: the essence of a person’s nature doesn’t change much over a lifetime. Two: if a butterfly wing flutter can cause a typhoon halfway around the world, then seemingly infinitesimal choices in a person can surely effect all the change in the world.
Girl one confounds. She also delights me beyond words. I both wade in to reprogram the alligators, and watch admiringly from a distance at the strokes she’s taught them. When I don’t want to tear my hair, she inspires me. (She does after all befriend alligators.)
Seeds start out smaller than what they become. Sometimes smooth, sometimes awkward rootish things, they grow into something you can’t see when they’re planted. Sometimes they die unrealized. Sometimes they come out spindly and break in the wind. Sometimes though, they grow up and down, an invisible promise fulfilled and dripping with beans.
For my alligator girl, I’ll give it a whirl.