Everyday Wonder

gratitude…

  
Tonight.

It’s late. The rain falls on the house for hours without stopping — a slow, steady rain. The kind that brings the world to life.

Meanwhile I’m here inside, listening to the drumming on the roof. 

The dinner guests have gone. 

The dishes have been cleaned, the wine glasses placed back on the shelf, upside down, glinting in the yellow light.

After all the laughter, it’s quiet, and suddenly I have space to draw a breath and take it in.

And I realize: it’s enough. 

The echoes of conversation and laughter.  The fading image of myself with my head on a friend’s shoulder.  My husband, now asleep in the next room, his breath easy and slow. 

The summer, so wet and green and full. 

And oh, God, there is so much more I want to build and be and do. But if this is all I ever have time for — well, then…

It’s enough. ❤

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Musings

Flashback: the Way of the Leaves

I don’t know why, but tonight this little post is on my mind.

I wrote it almost a year ago, but it feels like it was meant for today…  Right now…  In this moment.

Enjoy. ❤

 

I.

Summer opens wet and green:  foolish as first love.

Each leaf unfurls, fearless of frost.  It cannot imagine such a thing as Winter. 

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II.

I have a certain memory:

I am just a girl — nine, maybe ten.

I am balancing on the long railing that runs around our family’s big raised deck.  One foot in front of the other, arms outstretched for balance, I walk a slow circuit, over and over again:  amazed at the feeling of fitting my body carefully between two invisible planes, the crossing of which will send me tipping into a fall.

(I like to test my edges).

*

There are trees in this memory, and there were trees in real life:  a high green canopy at the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp, each ancient oak and cypress shaking so many leaves that the air sounds full of applause.

My father is there, pruning a hedge or cleaning a grill, building something — I can’t remember now.  And he is musing.

I am not really listening to him … not actively, anyway.  He talks both to himself and to me, teasing out the edges of certain thoughts, small hypotheses that make him curious.  We are both this way:  people caught in a current of ideas that interest us.  So he talks and I walk, shifting my center of gravity to my hips, then to my knees, raising myself onto the balls of my feet.  I am testing all the ways that my body can veer from its clean straight line and still remain upright.

I lift an index finger.

I balance on one foot.

I move from one balletic position to another: testing, testing.

And then my father’s voice breaks through my thoughts:

As soon as we’re born, he says, we’re already beginning to die.

*

There is no fear in his voice when he says this — he is not a fearful man, my father.  Just curious.  The only thing I can sense in the words … is wonder.

As soon as we’re born, I think, we’re already beginning to die.  I test out the thought, and it feels true.  And also safe.

A breeze ruffles all the green leaves around us, lifts the hair on my head, the tiny hairs on my arms.  I move my body through the green air and I feel the power of my own physicality, without the maturity yet to understand that this is what I am feeling.

This, I think, without the words to describe what I’m thinking.  This — all of this — is what dying feels like.

And also living.

*

This is the very first moment when the edges begin to dissolve for me:  when the membranes begin to seem comfortably porous.

On the narrow railing, I walk faster, more fluid.  All the air around me parts to let me pass. 

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III.

A week ago, I am driving down a country road that hugs tight to the curves of the river.  

The road runs long through a tunnel of trees, and I am driving behind a tractor trailer, its top so high that it lops off all the low-hanging limbs as it goes, sending a shower of leaves all around me.

We drive, and drive, and the bits of leaves skitter over my hood, slap my windshield.  I think, then, that if I could take this picture in black and white, it would look like Winter:  my headlights cutting a swath not through leaves but through snow, the white flakes floating and spinning in the beams.

I take a breath, and consider, how narrow the divide between one thing and the next:  Winter and Summer.  Brokenness and Beauty.  

And maybe there’s no divide at all.  

My foot eases the gas pedal closer to the floor and I feel the car surge forward toward the bumper of the tractor trailer, see the torn leaves fall thicker and faster, a blizzard of green just cut clean from the stem.

I am thirty-three now.  Old enough to feel the way my days are numbered.  Still — if I take a breath, I can feel my lungs expand to eat the air, my heart pushing the oxygen through me so that it pulses in my fingertips against the steering wheel.

I am a broken thing, and I am breathlessly, astoundingly alive… ❤

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Book Talk

A Little Book I’m Loving: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

I don’t usually write book reviews.

But.

*

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I’m one of those people who’s drawn to tiny, elegantly crafted things:

Bonsai.

Vintage handbags.

A certain kind of present that comes in a box small enough to fit in your palm.

In a perfect world, I’d probably end up in a rowhouse in Georgetown.  I’d populate the narrow rooms with an edited collection of books and breezy white linen, spindly-legged rattan chairs and those miniature orchids that grow in pots the size of pencil cups.  There’d be a walled garden out back, just big enough for a stone bench and a cherry tree, and on Fridays I’d throw the kind of parties where only seven people are invited and still the whole house fills with chatter and hum, somebody arguing good-naturedly about poetry, somebody spontaneously tearing up and down the scales on a violin.

Small.

But also full.

Gorgeous but not grand … and never grandiose.

I think you get the idea.

I guess it was this sentiment — and this sentiment alone — that drew me to Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams when I stumbled across a used copy in a Savannah bookstore.

I’d never heard of the book before.  It was copyrighted in 1993, and as a reader with a slow maturation into the meditative, I probably missed its moment by two decades.

Still, the book was small enough to fit perfectly in one hand — I’m a total sucker for that — and as I paged through the first chapter, it felt dreamy and poetic.  The kind of thing you could read in one sitting, but wouldn’t, in the same way that you could eat a little box of petit fours in one sitting, but wouldn’t.

I had to have it.

I’m only about halfway through by now, and I’m enjoying it slowly.

The text poses as a fictional collection of dreams — Einstein’s dreams, of course — which he experiences as a young man in 1905, when he’s still musing over his theory of relativity.

This collection isn’t for everyone — it’s mystical and metaphysical, and some of the meditations verge on being gushy and sentimental (I am — no surprise here — largely okay with that).  And while Lightman calls this fiction, I’m more inclined to call it fable:  no characters, no plot … just big ideas, hammered into exquisitely small stories.

But whatever you call them,  the stories do, in fact, feel *exactly* like dreams:

     There is a place where time stands still.  Raindrops hang motionless in the air. Pendulums of clocks float mid-swing.  Dogs raise their muzzles in silent howls.  Pedestrians are frozen on the dusty streets, their legs cocked as if held by strings.  The aromas of dates, mangoes, coriander, cumin are suspended in space.
     As a traveler approaches this place from any direction, he moves more and more slowly.  His heartbeats grow farther apart, his breathing slackens, his temperature drops, his thoughts diminish, until he reaches dead center and stops.  For this is the center of time.  From this place, time travels outward in concentric circles — at rest at the center, slowly picking up speed at greater diameters.
     Who would make a pilgrimage to the center of time?  Parents with children, and lovers…

All of this is surreal enough that if I were to read too much at once, I’m afraid I might fall into some kind of fugue state and wake up weeks later painting landscapes onto city sidewalk panels, one after another, while bystanders gape at the Crazy Lady getting paint in her hair.

But I like Lightman’s magic in small doses.  I like it especially because, in spite of its surrealism, it feels surprisingly truthful… which is precisely how surrealism ought to feel.

If you’re the kind of person who thinks the theory of relativity is a touch romantic — or you wonder what on earth it would feel like to be that kind of person — you might like this book.

Maybe.

Either way, I’m enjoying it — enough that one day, I’d be willing to give Einstein’s Dreams a narrow home on the bookcase in my imaginary, perfectly tiny Georgetown nest.  ❤

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