The washing machine, the refrigerator, the internet, and…more—they all broke last week.
Also last week, one of my younger children (whom I’ll call Rain) and I took hands as we headed out to the field. We collected deep orange salmon berries like they were jewels hanging from limbs awaiting our delight. We observed marble-sized-still-green cherries even while in our mind’s eye we could already imagine them ripened and ready. “Not long now!” we heartened one other.
We rubbed the fuzzy lamb’s ear plants that have bolted high this time of year, noticing that though all the rest of the year they seem to be a quiet and rather mild companion in the gardens now their deep fuchsia blossoms are dazzling us with nothing but simple elegance. Their blossom is something like a whisper of a crown that I imagine has been hiding deep in the belly of this creation and has finally emerged for us all to see.
We walk to a corner of the land where foxgloves and ferns alike are growing past my elbows and nearly over little Rain’s head. One of my older children, River, has claimed this corner as his own and has cultivated it, making wood chipped paths through the wilderness wonderland. It’s nothing less than a sanctuary there visited by each of the members of my family and the woodland creatures alike.
These creaturely visitations are somewhat evidenced by another corner where we check to see how the raspberries are coming along and we find so few because the deer and their fawns like to come and check (and eat) those too. It’s hard to be upset about it as the graceful does and their fawns make us feel special, and kind of giddy actually still, every time we see them visit this place, our place. You should hear us, just about every morning, tell each other; the deer are here! The sounds of little and big feet alike are heard from each direction, making their way to see. Don’t even get us started when it’s a buck or a stag!
How does it not matter that they’ve eaten our strawberries, salmon berries, raspberries and…more? Everyone here told us it would happen, the way they would eat. In truth, I didn’t fully believe it, I still planted a strawberry patch. I felt prepared to share.
A little for them, a little for us, I thought. I was wrong. Lesson learned; deer are quite fond of tender new growth. It’s what they do, it’s who they are. These gentle sentinels of the forest and ancient heraldry, coats of arms, and grand mythological stories get their way. Except for when they don’t…
You know, because, also last week… I saw a mama doe we’ve grown to think of as our own lying roadside. More brokenness. It stung. This cycle of life, what a mystery. Of course my heart sunk, there’s been too many mornings of watching these white-spotted fawns prancing through our tall grass, suckling in our presence, growing into mommas, having their own babes. We’ve eaten at the same table and we couldn’t even be upset when they seemed to eat more than their share. It what they do, it’s who they are.
They are fellow beings that we share the land with, keep company with. But they leave. Oftentimes the children have named them and every time it’s been awhile since the last time we saw this one or that one it’s only true to say that we each have a place inside wondering if they’ve been hit and are lying roadside somewhere, alone. The thought hurts, and still in time when the fawns and their momma’s and aunts come meandering through the field again, grazing, playing tag—I remember it like the first time, and I see how life has gone on. How life does go on. Life is alive.
That means, by essence, sometimes it breaks too. Yes, I instruct my own heart, this is what life does. This is what life is. It does break.
A few days after Rain and I’s walk, several of my older children and I were on a forest path and the blackberry blossom scent in the air was still Spring-like, fresh and light. Though we’ve crossed the threshold of the summer solstice now this scent is unlike the way these same bushes will intoxicate the air by the end of the summer like blackberry wine. Fermentation by sunlight makes the air feel thick and rich. Which is better? Fresh and light or thick and rich?
A few evenings later I had gone out to the garden to grab one of the few things that have survived our chaos this year, lettuce. As I rounded the corner back toward our front door something else was in the air…voices. My people’s voices wafting out into the atmosphere the same way the aroma of dinner was. I cannot contain this preciousness, how life goes on, how life is alive.
As I watch my children begin to graduate from high school one-at-a-time and make their way into the world, a-little-at-a-time—I remember it all like it was all the first time. I can hear their voices and feel every single one of their twelve hands in my own, in the field, gathering flowers and stones and treasures for their pockets and satchels. Yep, I got them satchels. There are so many many things I didn’t do, but I did that.
Somehow when I did that it was my way of saying, I’m here. I was here.
It stings. This cycle of life, what a mystery. Of course my heart sinks, as much as it elevates, enthralled and enraptured!
There’s been too many mornings of watching these blonde headed elflings prancing through our tall grass, suckling in our presence, growing into whole full-grown people! What wonder. We’ve eaten at the same table and we couldn’t even be upset when they seemed to eat more than their share. It what they do, it’s who they are…and so much-much more. Their blossoming is something like a whisper of a crown that I imagine has been hiding deep in the belly of these creations and has finally emerged for us all to see.
It breaks my heart with the beauty. It breaks my heart with the sadness and trial. But, and I would never say something like this trite, there’s something I know… I know it’s only breaking like Jesus broke the bread to bless and to make more… so much more.
I can’t see it all right now, and when I write that to you today I write it with tears streaming down my neck. I cannot see it. So. for now, I’ll keep listening for the voice I love on the wind. I will keep getting giddy over the deer in the yard. I’ll remember that washing machines and refrigerators and internets were made…to break. It’s what they do. There will be times, when we’ll break too. But these things don’t have to break us. These things could teach us how to hear and see a little closer when they are working, or prancing through the high grass, or holding us in their arms.
That’s what I’ll let them do, because life is alive. That, by essence, means a lot of things. Today, I’ll choose not to miss the life part. When everything breaks and I can’t remember how to breathe, I’ll remember it’s not dependent on me remembering. I’ve been breathed upon, given breath.
How could life be dependent on anything other than that? Today, together, we can stay there, we can remember gift—graciousness, spaciousness, the place we live here. We’re here… collecting in our satchels, in order to give our treasures away…given to, to give…this life, what a mystery.
It stings. It is life. It is gift.
I love you,