“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
We bought a house.
The bedrooms smell like mothballs and it takes exactly 289 steps to reach the lake’s mossy shore. There’s a smudge where he pressed his hand against the glass to count the sleeping deer, quiet under the peeling bark of the tallest hickory.
Our hands are muddier. There is dirt under our nails and nightly scrubs. Our shoes have permanent rings of dark soil around their rubber soles, shoelaces embalmed in dried seaweed. I found a Styrofoam box of worms in the refrigerator, his muddy fingerprints wrapped around the lid.
The boys started school. There was Driver’s Ed and early morning arguments. Now there is soccer. We practice driving and I hold onto my seatbelt with both hands. The days of open page schedules have since passed. Their small eyes are bigger, wider. There is more searching, more stretching, more straying from my open hand and I thought maybe they had outgrown the joy of an afternoon wander.
And I can’t tell if time is moving faster or if I am moving slower. But it feels better. This presence. This awareness. This soiled knee, forest light mess is more beautiful than I remembered.
The apple tree is crooked. He hangs between the branches, holding tight to the place where a limb broke off and grew back.
Why don’t you take pictures anymore, mama? I miss you taking the pictures.
There’s a video of him looking back at me. He was four and the coneflowers had grown taller than his small head. The video has no sound but I can hear his words through his waiting eyes.
I have places to take you, mama. Secret places.
Places where monsters lurk beneath the murky sea and dragon’s eyes rise between the leaves. And he ran past the trees until they weren’t trees at all, just the blur of a Sunday afternoon gone by too fast.
The previous owner said there is an asparagus patch that has been here for over 30 years. It still has the thin remnants of asparagus reaching for the sky and I wonder if they miss her hands.
Some of the flowers have begun to wither and I wonder if they forgot the way it felt to be in full bloom, if they miss it or if their dying leaves are a way to honor where they’ve been. The amount of time they spent parched inside the sun’s afternoon light, waiting for their thirst to be quenched.
We’re just growing, mama. Like the flowers and the trees.
There is the flower’s sweet invitation to take solace in her bloom. No concern over how her petals may fall, if there is a tear or the bitten remains of hunger. She stands alive in her own imperfection, more beautiful than before.
It can't grow again unless it dies first.
There is something new here, something rising from the end. Something caught and held, just for a moment. Made to be released. Something there all along, under the rain tossed shore, moving in and out between the soft underwater green, turning the water with its tail, the luminous glow of new skin receiving the light.
And there are demons, imagined and real, quiet and called upon, rising where we opened the sky and set them free. Twenty years brings softness to the eyes. And that story, the folded poem we carried between denim and skin left traces of ink we thought would mark our flesh forever. But that’s the thing about story and words and holding onto each syllable like it’s the air that is saving us from the underwater shore.
There is the moment you choose to lay them down, extinguish all the burning embers once and for all, never looking back even at the smoke still rising between the trees.
Because the rain will come if you let it.
There is a drawing of a new studio somewhere with lines erased and reimagined. My hands paint pictures with words, chapters and chapters of words. And there is something magical about writing without an end, letting a story unfold like an open mouth yawn finding rest.
And there are things close to my heart, not ready to share. And it feels like a whisper not yet fully a voice. So I am keeping it close hoping someday it will be strong enough to sing.
You gotta be quiet, mama or you’ll scare the fish.
Quiet gives voice to a heart with no pen.
And there is something honoring about being present with creation instead of documenting it. This quiet feels like standing still with your hands wide open letting the world find the creases between your fingers until you’re ready to close them again.
Can we stay a while longer, mama?
Sometimes love can look like silence. And voice can feel like rain.
There is a spin, some kind of centrifugal force, keeping us from entering this middle. This quiet, eye of the storm place, where the winds strength, its gust, carry our worries inside tornado swirl. And it's this same gust protecting us, holding us close to its center.
Because some change is fast like a tree torn from the ground, the windswept years, minutes, hours it took for those roots to grow deep enough to hold it all up, the branches and leaves, all reaching for the sky.
Other change is enduring, the unseen coil of memory and time, seeds thrown into the sky, searching for a place to land.
Sometimes you have to leave home to find home is you.
I held his pole when his line tangled. We drifted a little longer and dropped anchor after the sky turned orange. We reached into the water and felt the sunset wrap itself around our skin.
It feels softer now, mama.
And it looked like the water was rising up to meet the clouds with the tips of her waves. That maybe the storm was just the pull of the shore taking us home.
You gotta be patient, mama. It’ll come.
Just keep putting the line in the water.
Something will bite.
And I realize it's his voice keeping the sky blue just long enough to remember her color, trace the clouds so we might release them inside our hearts when the day swells gray and black.
Did you feel his skin, mama? The way the scales hold each other up?
There’s a smudge on the glass where your fingers pressed hello,
where you turned the last of the midnight rain into a heart that stretched into the sky.