By cracking open a crusty eye, I am able to gage the light spilling into the curtainless room, and calculate the time as a smidgen past 6:00 am. I slip quietly out of bed on this crisp morning so as not to wake my husband. It’s strange, after fifty some years I simply forgot how to sleep, I say why fight it when there’s coffee to enjoy, and a lavish view to contemplate.
Dragging a few fingers through my tangled hair is fruitless, I grab a dark blue sweatshirt from the closet with the words Lake Girl embroidered on the front, and wiggle into it as Shaggy attempts to trip me on my way to the kitchen. This is his way of reminding me to procure his breakfast before considering any of my own needs.
Multitasking is the best approach, grab his bowl as an appeasement, switch on coffee maker, lift a hearty mug out of the cupboard, dump two scoops into his bowl from the pantry, shut door with my bare foot, push the brew button as I place his laden bowl by the back door, and race to the restroom as my coffee is bubbling into being.
I call this my intimate morning dance with unusual instrumentals, twirling to an imaginary tempo, feeling the embrace of something sacred, I make my way outside, hot mug in hand, in search of that which remains ever so illusive.
Rachel Held Evens says when God shows up, it’s in the thick of things, in which I have been entangled. I guess the best way to explain myself is with a story, as we are made in the image of a great story teller, and this is how I like to unravel the things I so carefully convolute.
It might be helpful to know we’ve been rearranging containers at the lake all weekend, moving planters from the front to the back, brainstorming the dynamics of shade and how to get more of it, relocating a tree from the nursery in town to our home, and I admit all this shifting has altered my perspective.
This morning I saunter over to our newly planted tree to speak a few encouraging words, I believe words can be a potent as fertilizer, without all the shit. Bonding with a tree is not easy, but it happens, especially after I saved her sorry neck yesterday. So here’s my version of events, exactly as they unfold, no detail unimportant, as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is known to say, God is in the details.
Go ahead, refill your coffee, I’ll wait.
For those of you behind on the blog, let me fill you in, Larry has been leaving his beloved Mustang convertible up at the lake due to my birthday snafu, when he finally came to his senses (you can catch up here), and followed me up to the lake in a separate car.
Yesterday Larry said, “let’s take a ride to Lakeport in the convertible, pick up a few things at Mendo Mill, and we’ll see if we can find that fruitless mulberry you’ve been pining for? I just showered and washed my hair because I thought he was taking me wine tasting this afternoon, but I agree, because I want to get that tree planted before the summer gets into full swing. I’ll just clip up my hair, it’ll be fine…
After grabbing a few supplies at the hardware store, we pick out a beautiful striking mulberry at the nursery, but the owner doesn’t have his truck on site, and can not deliver? Let me paint a really clear picture so there won’t be any misunderstandings, the tree is huge, we are driving a convertible, and our options are rather limited.
This is how it goes down, I get sequestered in the back seat, which is really more of a ledge with no foot space, the tree is wedged in the front seat (formerly my space), my legs are shoved between the bucket seats as I attempt to hold the container in place with my feet (thank God I’m endowed with enormous trotters), and with my hands I’m required to hold the trunk of our darling mulberry all the way home, so she doesn’t break her slender neck.
I find myself in a virtual wind tunnel, my hair is whipping my face so violently it’s as if there’s a private eco system erupting in the back seat, and with every ounce of strength I fight to maintain my grasp on the slim trunk for the entire 30 minute drive back to the lake house. Thank God I’m stuffed in here like a damn sardine or I’d be sucked out by this virulent vacuum. Absolute hell. On arrival I am drenched in sweat, I look like Cousin Itt from the Adam’s Family, and my arms are shaking so badly I couldn’t hold a glass of wine if my life depended on it.
Larry slips coolly out of the shaded drivers seat protected from the wind, reaches back to “help” me out, and just about pees his pants when he sees me. I am not amused.
Anyhoo…that was yesterday, he tried to placate me by taking me out to dinner and grabbing a movie, the large tub of popcorn with butter was helpful, and I should mention the nice back rub he bestowed upon me when we got home. He knows my weaknesses and is ever so capable of putting this knowledge to good use.
So here we are, early morning, I’m strolling by the recently relocated planters, making my way to our sweet tree, when I notice a worried duck is squatting in the ivy, tucked beneath the meager shade of the geraniums. She looks at me, gaging the probable harm, I talk softly to her, and she sort of ruffles her feathers, but stays put, and just beneath those warm feathers is a light blue egg.
Now it may be of no interest to you, but there is also a female duck parked on an egg in the other planter on the opposite side of the patio, and just like that my deck has become a maternity ward? I suddenly have the urge to boil water.
All this new life is in juxtaposition with my current obsession with death. It started on May 19th, with my brother-in-law David who shares my birthday, only this year he celebrated his in heaven, whereas I toasted us from the lake (his favorite place), with a generous pour of red wine. He would have turned 60 this year. Then my Dad’s birthday coincides with the passing of one of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans, whose been inspiring me for years as she writes about faith, doubt, and life. And next week marks the second year of my sweet Mom’s passing.
There is a pile of books on the side table, waiting patiently for my return, I’ve been reading Rilke lately, because he writes about things beyond my comprehension. He says, “I am not saying that we should love death, but rather that we should love life so generously, without picking and choosing, that we automatically include it in our love (Is he really saying we should love death?). This is what actually happens in the great expansiveness of love, which cannot be stopped or constricted. It is only because we exclude it that death becomes more and more foreign to us and, ultimately, our enemy.” (Obviously the answers I search for can’t be found in a book but that doesn’t keep me from trying.)
This is where I fail, picking and choosing that which I wish to see, deafly ignoring the rest, and therefore becoming my own worst nemesis.
According to Rilke death is simply a part of life and should be “generously loved” along with the ducklings and the trees. Now that I think about it, I love things that grow, as opposed to things that diminish. Wasn’t it my children who helped me grow, expand, and finally understand my greater purpose.
I remember how small Mom became as death slowly approached, her life literally dwindling away, when all that remained was a shell, empty, and devoid of life. Now she’s stored in a small decorative urn which can not possibly contain an entire life? I put down the books maybe I’ve had enough God moments for a one day.
As the morning turns to afternoon, I’m still in my pajamas, reading, writing, and contemplating the ducks nesting in my geraniums, while Larry has secured our new tree with two large stakes, set up an elaborate watering system to keep her hydrated when we’re away, and fixed the swim deck that came loose.
He sits down next to me, it’s hot, he’s sweating, and hands me a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I point to our expectant ducks, grumbling about how they have to sit in the hot sun all day, I’m just about to suggest Larry set up an umbrella, when suddenly one of the ducks emerges from her nest, and smoothly lands on the water. She is immediately joined by a male duck who has been floating in the water under the shade of the Goudreau’s deck. They paddle off together, I assume in search of food, and the poor duck certainly has to relieve herself?
I look at Larry aghast, he says, “what?”
“That poor duck, sitting all day in the hot sun just to keep her egg safe, while her husband lingers under the shade of the deck in the cool water. What the hell? I remember when you slipped out for a hamburger in the middle of my labor with Julie.” I glare at him for good measure.
Larry has the audacity to laugh, loudly, and leisurely. When he manages to control himself he says, “You were in labor for three days, clearly a man has to find his own shade, I’m thinking a new blog?” (Now he’s claiming proof of concept – such chutzpah!)
As he returns to the kitchen to refill our glasses I notice something else, something I failed to mention, something so noble it makes me tear up. The male never moved beyond sight of his beloved, not once, he stayed the course, keeping watch over his wife, and I noticed when a black bird threatened the nest, he went immediately into fighter mode, and bravely drove the predator away.
I watch the two floating together in the shade, I imagine she is telling him how good it feels to be the carrier of life, I remember what it felt like to have heaven and earth come together in my womb. It’s extraordinary and I remember how safe I felt having a man like Larry guarding our nest.
The other mama duck wasn’t so lucky, her partner has gone awol, and when she went on break something ravaged her nest. Now there is only a small indent where she had been, where the possibility of life once nested, and a few soft feathers left behind as evidence of her presence. How do we love both life and death so generously that neither become our enemy?
Rachel Evans says, “we may wish for answers, but God rarely gives us answers. Instead, God gathers us up into soft, familiar arms and says, “Let me tell you a story.”
I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, I’ll take you for a ride in the convertible.
- “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our separate ways, I to die, and you to live. Which of these two is better only God knows.” Socrates
- “There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.” George Santayana
- “You are the life and you are the death – it is only motion that separates the two.” Abhijit Naskar,