Several months ago now I was gifted with a shard of clarity in the form of a parable. A child on the playground loses both her hero and her playground in her quest to play in the river. In the parable, that came to me in the pacific Northwest as the great horned owl sang, the choice was clear and the child unwavering in her trek to the fresh water.
As summer turned to fall and now fall to winter, I find myself realizing that the parable needs a sequel. The story, as it came to me, ends at the edge of the playground. Facing the river, to be sure, and in motion. But the story closes before the little girl’s feet actually leave familiar footing. In these ensuing months, facing the river and making my way across the playground to the open banks which beckon, I realize that I am doing a wee bit (or more) of spinning at the edge of the familiar terrain.
In recent weeks I’ve had the privilege of being (officially) on vacation, so that I am neither working nor not. This time has been invaluable for catching my breath and for coming to terms with the grief that is mine as I leave this life that I have loved. A curious pattern emerges, however. As a moth is drawn to flame, I am drawn to grief. Given the foci of the playground loss, I am drawn to the rusty drinking fountain while the river water rushes by unheeded. Even as I write the words I can feel the taste of the cool rusty water of a childhood playground. This is a half world in which I grew until I could no more, a world which seemed complete until it broke open. It is known and familiar. True, but incomplete.
What is it about this pattern of mine that draws to the place of sorrow?
Sitting in the promise of a warm January morning, I realize that dancing with the question itself gives more time to the sadness that would take me hostage. There is another truth, more powerful truth, that has never left the core of my being. At times shuttered away, not often welcome on center stage, this is the delighted heart of the child headed to the river’s edge. She is waiting to take me there if I would but follow.
Standing at the anxious precipice between yesterday and tomorrow, I understand the salt that filled Lot’s wife and left her as a monument to nostalgia. I respect her. And I honor the sacrifice which bears witness to the cost of rearview mirrors.
Today I’m holding Mary Oliver’s question, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Holding the hand of the effervescent child, my feet feel the softness of the earth uncovered, my ears begin to hear the sound of twigs breaking underfoot and bird songs above, my nostrils fill with the smells now of gentle decay and rebirth, a cycle of life and promise. Soon I will see the river, but lest I get ahead of myself I will take time to simply note the presence of this one moment. And it is good. It is so very very good.