It was his first karate class.
I watched him make circles with his toe on the wooden floor. His eyes, two helium balloons attached to her instruction. I stood in front of the tinted window, rocking my purse in my arms.
And he lunged and punched the air with his bent fist, his small legs making chairs on the floor.
His head tilted up and I could see it. The way doubt can wash confidence from a face, leaving eyes soaked in confusion. And his feet were running toward me before I even had a chance to wish it away.
His arms wrapped around my neck, words whispered from somewhere under a trembling voice.
I just don’t like karate.
His shaky voice. The gate to somewhere else.
So we drove to my parent’s farm, where his feet could find a kind of solid ground. Where his voice sings under a chorus of slow moving trees, humming through a blanket of deep August humidity.
And I found the beds inside my mother’s garden. The strings between timber, the vines wrapped inside wire. The berries held a deep crimson under their bellies, the gentle cry of a ripened heart, ready for harvest.
And I listened as he jumped on the aging trampoline, the steady bounce of recognition, his confidence finding him in the air between sky and black canvas.
And I wondered how many times I have been here. Caught between the blurry eyes of vulnerability and the running feet of fear. There are all of these moments when the simple act of beginning feels like the face of uncertainty staring back through a cracked mirror. Sometimes I need to be reminded. Sometimes I have to hold the face of a flower to see its beautiful end.
There are the places we hide, the places we go when the fear of being small becomes too big. When the ache summons the black dirt march back in time to the mighty womb, the healing salve over embedded thorns still waiting to be pulled. The small voice in slumber, awakened.
And this hiding place cradles each dent, each bruise and tear.
Because sometimes we grow in the shadows, in the dust of fear and doubt. But our leaves, they keep stretching, pressing past the gray light into the yellow orb of grace.
Doubt thirsts for assurance, the firm hand of forever’s and for sure’s.
Growth, she lingers in the maybe, in the carefree whirl of flaws made beautiful. And this growth, never rushed, cracked veins falling when ready, leaving the imprint of memory, fear torn from the vine.
Grow tall, small heart.
Grow tall through the weeds, through the spider web holds. Through the ravaged leaf loss and the sunken fruit spills. Each reach releasing, each vine unraveling into this amber, fall shedding.
Because this doubt, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It means you’re alive. Spiraling past the button hole loops of a life well thread, stitching the seams back together, climbing over each broken stem, reaching for the light.
It means you’re growing.
And this sun, she’ll take you. She’ll make you her own.
There is no place to hide in her light, in the split ray love of a blooming heart.
And sometimes doubt is all we know, so we grow crooked, searching for light between fallen branches. But beauty, she grows in this crooked undergrowth of flaws and bendable mistakes.
The seasons will cast their eyes to the sky, watching for the rain, the snow, the storm building gusts of change. The gentle hand push of growth, old stalks releasing each fear to the wind.
And I say this, small heart, because maybe I need it more than you. These words a circle, a halo’s wet glow, to hold us together when the sky is falling.
Grow past the rain soaked puddles, the tears nourishing each stem. Let your small chutes explore past the knots, the open beak bird exploration. Grow through the clouds, through the thunder and strike. Wrap yourself in a feathered bloom.
These shaken stars. I’m still holding on.
And when the doubt comes, push through the dirt anyway, past the broken leaves and wobbly stems. Wait for the rain’s refresh, the muddy ground clearing, blooms soaked in chartreuse change.
I can’t give you for sure’s. But this open hand collecting, inviting you to a second harvest life. These chances are yours to take. To clutch close to a shaken voice.
I hear you.
paint pictures with your eyes.
Your heart, the vase, holding your treasure.
Because sometimes we just need a hand to reach in and pull us from the ground, from the mud soaked soil, to remind us of what we are becoming, the part of us still growing.
You are courage in full bloom.
There are pastures wild, deep riverbed flowers growing from the deep canopy of freedom, reaching from places our eyes may never see. Your roots, stretching out past this hiding place, past the fertilized soil of forever’s, the watering can of safety.
And I could hear his small voice, carried on the back of the wind, caught between the squeak of the trampoline.
Look how high I can jump!
Can you see me?
I can see you, small heart.