The morning after the wedding -when the family and the leftover groomsman and bridesmaids were still here, all of us in our pajamas and caressing cups of coffee and our memories - Beep-beep's babies hatched. She'd been on the nest since the beginning of July, but it did seem unlikely that our rather dim collection of drakes and hens could produce actual ducklings. Still, she did it, and there she was, wandering across the pasture on the morning after with three tiny ducklings in tow. You understand that it felt like a gift, life going on so beautifully when you've just done the hard work of wrapping up a childhood.
We've another threshold to cross next month when our daughter leaves home for a year. If you're counting, that's three slipped the nest now, and only one left at home. I'm more happy for them than I am sad, but those three ducklings chasing around their momma and clinging to her shadow for dear life remind me sharply of how it used to be and how it will never be again. Time inevitably brings you to humility's door. You learn what you knew, but could not know, that precious things cannot be held forever. They must always go.
Summer nights are good for the soul. I have sat out all these nights until the stars come out, thinking about what's come, what's gone, what's left to do. It stole over me softly, the knowing that I have things yet I want to be, a woman yet I want to become.
I tried to say this knowing out loud. My husband (that sweet man) sat in his chair next to me while I searched for words. In the end we just sat there quietly and waited. The sun slipped away and a moon-pearl grew bright over the tops of the fir trees. I thought to myself that the time for words had gone, it is time instead for becoming, for growing brighter - and softer - against a world that is too often dark-skied. If I close my eyes now, I can hear that pale, soft moon singing to me that it is time to come out from hiding, time to come dream more dreams.
I've heard it explained that when we first begin to see and know our true selves (a work of many, many years, perhaps a lifetime) the first feelings we have are fear. It takes courage to become yourself. It takes courage to reveal that self to others. St. Francis used to go away in solitude and pray and find his true self there in Christ. When he returned to the world he refused to share his secrets, keeping close guard over the sacred intimacy he had with God. But of course, he told us all his secrets, every day in his life, in his poverty, in his chastity, in his love. What we truly are, we live for everyone to see.
This is what the moon sang: leave fear behind and be.
For awhile I have been afraid of the quiet of the house. I feared the dinner table with only three plates, the chasms in our conversations, the awkward silences where a circus of jokes and stories used to be. We abandoned the table, let screens drown out the echoes of our old life.
There are so, so many ways to drown ourselves in this modern world.
I stirred, tried again. I told my family the best I could about the moon, the fears, the drowning. The words didn't come out like that at all, but that's what I was saying. They knew. They were watching me live, after all.
That same night, Caleb and I pulled blankets and pillows onto the deck and lay out to watch the sky. We had an audiobook of Dracula playing, something we'd started over a year ago and abandoned. I was waiting on the moon and the storyteller's voice was deep and urgent, going up, up, up into the trees. If I closed my eyes for a moment and then opened them I could see the pattern of the night fall, a deep blue line that crossed through cloud and then treetops and then powerlines, edging closer to us and closer. The bats began to come out then. One, two, small triangle shapes with a drunken flutter across our vision. We looked at each other wide-eyed. Here was the night coming down, here were the bats in their twilight-hours, here was the magic of story. We smiled at each other. The bats melted into the darkness, the moon edged forward from her shadows, the vampire tale went on and on. We pulled the blankets tighter, slowly drifted off to sleep. That night we did not drown, but live.
There is a woman I have yet to become. If I can shut out the fear, then sometimes I catch a glimpse of her. She is out in a dark-skied world, under the moonlight, dancing, and her voice is a song that goes up, up, up into the trees, and far, far out into the sky. Leave fear behind and be.
The wedding was so lovely and I thank you so much for your cheers and your prayers. I will share pictures from the wedding when I get them from the photographer.
Here's a little peek until then: