Even with the sun still shining, I could feel the shift in pressure, the promise in the breeze. It is such a deep feeling, knowing that comes with clear body memory. Much needed rain was on its way. For some reason the image of sitting with my childhood shoebox full of gum wrappers in lap came to mind, the sound of wind high in the trees, remembering how much I loved the space of humid wet gray to settle in and advance the length of my paper chain. Lily was coming for a visit with baby Jack and I was beginning to prepare, wondering if we would be able to get a walk in before the weather changed, excited to be making chicken coconut curry again. It had been one of Molly’s requested meals while in Cusco and it felt completely natural to want to nourish daughter of the heart Lily the same way. Vacuuming, dusting, and playing sous chef in the kitchen
became the prelude to getting out for a romp with Nora in the woods I call myself steward of. It would be a short walk, just enough to flex the muscles and feel the change out there too.
The water level in the brook is now so low that only the deepest and widest reservoirs in the rock bed hold wet.
It’s disconcerting, the feeling that there has been no obvious replenishing of the source. Here, so much hard gray is now exposed. I know it must just be a surface illusion though, because just yards away from this barren brook, there is still plenty of moisture feeding roots that extend deep into the earth to keep the woods so lush and green.
Stones are not really so hard, their roots are deep inside, drawing into them what they need. I think I am a little bit like these stones. I keep feeling for the the loving channels that allow nourishment to find home, the ones that actually function as roots deep inside.
Since I moved across the river, I don’t see Lily as often as I used to. Even so, she was one of the first calls I made in the car on the way to the airport to fly to Cusco. After sharing the shocking news of Molly’s crisis, I said Ben and I wouldn’t be able to attend Jack’s first birthday party after all. But she wanted Ben there, and went to pick him up the morning of the party anyway so he could spend the day celebrating with them. She and her husband Jay love Ben, have made him a central part of their lives in a way that feels true.
I first met Lily when we moved into the house across the street in Amherst seventeen years ago. She was only fifteen years old, less than a decade older than my own two children at the time. Lily has known Ben half her life, has become an exemplary special education teacher, and after years of being connected as neighbor, baby sitter, and companion, is now a devoted adult friend. Out walking after supper, Lily turned her attention to where I am in my life here, giving me an opportunity to reflect on the solitude in a place where I feel the deep roots that I do in one moment, then share in the fun of spontaneously intersecting with neighbors who have become my community the next. We reminisced about the incredible time we all had at her wedding four years ago, how easy it was for Ben to be his charming self with everyone there because of the safety that she and Jay have always created for him to be exactly who he is. And in the course of our time together last night I watched how she seamlessly created this same space for her own son Jack, for him to explore, react, and just be.
He is a happy, open little boy who finds his way into connection without fear. More than ever, especially with toddler pup Yogi in the house, who is also ripe for learning to be the secure and happy being he can be, I am reminded of the power of simple attention, of how important it is to feel the safety net of a loving teaching presence when we need it.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt the arms of a one year old reach out, enclose, and actually hug the way Jack does.
He shared his magic with Molly when we skyped later, becoming acquainted with her through smiles and finger touches on a screen. Amazing how seamless communication has become in this age, to allow us all to truly be together in that moment.
Having a presence like Lily in my life is like having a deep root inside that stretches through time. The flow of time spent together may wax and wane like the flow of water in a brook of stones, but it doesn’t take much, just a simple heartfelt visit, for the water that is there to find its nourishing way.