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Halfway

Today, I turned 35.

And for the first time in my life, I’ve felt a small measure of anxiety over my age. I loved turning 30–like, love loved. In a weird way, I felt like I was catching up to myself–as though I’d always been 30. And in the ensuing five years, I’ve found myself feeling … relaxed … comfortable … happy with myself. There have been hard things, certainly. Sad times, yesofcourse. But in short, my 30s so far have been great.

But 35. Thirty-five is … really close to 40. And it’s half of 70. And because of that, for the last few weeks, the thought keeps rolling, I’ve lived half(ish) of my life.

It’s not so much the getting older. I don’t mind that. Aging has never scared me. And 35 isn’t even that old. It’s more the reality that what I thought my life would be by now … isn’t. And because time is ticking–so very loudly–I can’t help but think … What have I done? What am I doing? Continue reading →

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To Be a Mother

It was late, and dark, and I was tired. But I held her nonetheless and rocked her back and forth in a chair that squeaked every time I moved. Every so often she would surrender to sleep, only to wake minutes later with a shudder as her body heaved and coughed, trying desperately to root out the infection deep inside. Monitors beeped and tubes trailed from her tiny body, making it difficult to cradle her the way I really wanted to, but I held her as close as I could, in the corner of a sterile hospital room, as the moon rose high.

She wasn’t mine—that baby in my arms. And I am not a mother. I have never watched my belly grow round with life. I have never felt the rush of that first movement from within. I have never pushed my body beyond my presumed limits to birth another human being. I have never felt the immediate instinct that binds a woman to her child as he is placed upon her chest for the very first time.

And if I am being honest, those are the things I want most, second only to finding a love with whom to experience them—so much so, that there are nights when I will place a pillow under my shirt and imagine what that roundness feels like.

Her mother, an old friend and severely sick herself, had called earlier in the day. Would you please go hold my baby for me? she asked. She had three other children at home who desperately needed “mother time,” not to mention she needed rest, and little Lissy had just been released from the NICU.

There was no need to think. Of course I would go hold her baby. There was no work meeting, no appointment, no previous commitment more important than driving straight to the hospital to stay with my friend’s baby, all night in the squeaky rocking chair, if need be.

At one point, I looked down at her soft, round face and traced her nose with the tip of my finger. Her teary doe-eyes looked back at me, whispering volumes of wisdom beyond her few short months. And a distant memory came to mind. I was five and had fallen and scraped my knee. My first impulse was to call for my mother. She came running out of the house, scooped me up off the driveway and carried me inside, where she sat me on the kitchen counter and reached for a wet cloth and band-aid.

Suddenly, holding Lissy, I found myself more grateful for my life than I’d been in months. No, I had no family of my own to care for, no husband to be home with, no children to tuck into bed, but because of that, I could easily and immediately go to the hospital when I was needed most.

And I understood—though I may not have birthed a child myself, this is what it is to be a mother: to come when you are called—as soon as you are called, to wrap your arms around another person, and to cradle them with love–all night if necessary.

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How do you find the day?

I’m not really sure how or where to start this post. And I suppose the answer is to start at the very beginning. At least that’s what I hear Maria von Trapp singing in my ear. But the problem is that I’m not sure where the beginning is.

I mean, at what point, in the course of a girl’s life, does she begin to hate her body. How do you find the day?

As children we can’t stop ourselves from jumping into pictures, making crazy faces, and loving the resulting photos. We are oblivious to the nuances and peculiarities of our bodies, simply happy that they’ll pedal a bicycle, skip down the street, and hang one-handed from the monkey bars.

But all of a sudden, we cross some threshold. We become “aware.” And we begin to shy away from photos, hiding from the cameras, hoping to be put in the back row. We begin inspecting ourselves in the mirror, eyes trailing from head to toe like a dot-to-dot under a magnifying glass, suddenly certain that our hair is too stringy, too curly, too straight, that our nose is too freckled, ears too uneven, chin too pointy, skin too pale, buttocks too round, or perhaps too flat, boobs too big, boobs too small, stomach too flabby, thighs too fat, ankles too thick, toes too long, need I go on?, all the while carrying on an internal dialogue wherein we tell ourselves that we’re not pretty enough, not tall enough, not tan enough, not thin enough, not curvy enough … not. not. not. Enough.

But where is the day that begins? When does it happen?

I have blurry memories.

There was the day in seventh grade that Joel Vierra pointed out that Shannon Schlesman was great at English, and that he was good at math, and that I was good at lots of subjects. “You’re well-rounded,” he said. And then he chuckled, “Get it? Well-rounded.”

There was the day in fifth grade when I didn’t sign up for swim team—not because I didn’t want to. But because I couldn’t bear the thought of putting on the swim suit.

Or the afternoon I’d forgotten my sheer, filmy ballet skirt in my dance bag. And so I pulled on the cotton skirt I’d worn to school that day, fully aware that I needed something to cover my belly. No one had to tell me. I just knew. It wasn’t flat like the other girls’.

Ballet class began, but when my teacher noticed my attire, he stopped class to tell me to take the skirt off—that I would have to dance that day in just my leotard and tights. And I stood there at the bar, my eyes on the floor, everyone else’s on me, heart pounding, ears burning, and told him no. He stood there in silence for a minute and then told me again to take it off. And still, I quietly whispered, “no.”

I had never told an adult, let alone a teacher, “no” before. I’m nothing if not an obedient teacher’s pet. But I was certain, that day, that it was more humiliating to stand in front of everyone wearing only my leotard plastered to every curve of my body than to do disobey.

I was in second grade. Eight years old.

I quit ballet soon after—not because I wasn’t good, and not because I didn’t love it. But because I knew, and was certain everyone else knew, that my body was not a ballerina’s body.

But when did that happen? When did I finally know? And how? When began this seemingly endless battle with my body? How many years have I been looking in the mirror silently telling myself that the reflection looking back is wrong?

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Nothing But Ocean & Sky

Yesterday, I woke early. I slid out of bed and into my swimming suit, grabbed my camera and headed for the beach. The morning wind whipped through the open windows of dad’s grumbly truck and I turned off the radio. No one was on the road yet and the sky was in that in-between, sleepy blue phase—the one where it’s not still dark, but not yet light. How I love morning solitude. Sixty seconds later I tossed a couple of quarters into a parking meter and moseyed down the boardwalk.

Everything was calm, silent, except for the sounds of the sea. I laid my towel out near a twisty, crooked beach tree, dropped my camera, and walked straight to the waves. They crashed against my body, each one sending sea spray up to my mouth and curling my hair into tiny ringlets around my neck. I pressed into them, like a woman kissing her obsession for the first time, the salt settling sweet on my lips.

Sand shifted beneath my feet with every turn of the current and I kept walking, water rising, past my knees, my thighs, my waist, my chest–higher and higher, beyond the crashing surf, until it swirled and wrapped, over and around and over again, swaddling me as I laid there, softly treading, as the sun began to climb out from behind the clouds.

I looked out in front of me–nothing but ocean and sky.

Nothing but ocean and sky.

I settled my feet despite the moving floor below me and found myself lifting my arms–open, wide, and free–coaxing the salty water up into tiny rivers that fell from my fingertips, wanting only to greet the endless horizon before me.

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Only When You’re Emptied

I watched the tide rise and fall for the better part of my day today. There’s not much else a girl can do in this sticky heat. Even blinking takes too much effort.

And as I sat, melting in the swelter, contemplating the ebbing sea, watching the mounds of mud gradually emerge from their hiding, I felt strangely akin to low tide—empty, exposed, muddy.

All I seem to have are questions anymore. What is this life I’m living? What am I supposed to be doing? When will I feel full again? When will the tide turn? When will I feel like me again? How do I get me back?

But today, it occurred to me—I don’t know that I ever will. Get “me back,” that is. At least, not in the sense that I will suddenly wake up and reclaim my old self—as if I were a lost shoe that I found under the bed one day. I don’t know that that’s possible. Or that I even want it to be anymore. And in fact, I don’t think that’s what this is, or has ever been. But that is what I’ve been trying to make it.

I keep saying, “I used to do,” or “I used to be.” I’ve been looking at my old life as if it were this thing that I lost, and now need to somehow find and reclaim. But nothing I try, in my reclamation efforts, seems to be working.

I’ve grasped and plotted and planned and ultimately fought the current, trying to keep my life at high tide. And I could say that that was the wrong thing to do, but I won’t discount my steps. I won’t berate the fear. I won’t belittle the struggle.

And I won’t feel bad for taking too long. Because what is too long? Who am I to say that I’m not following a perfect timeline? Who am I to say that there even IS a timeline?

On this island, the tide rises two times each day. But though the tide is on a schedule, ultimately it only rises when the Earth is ready—once all the creeks and canals have been sufficiently emptied. You can’t force a tide to turn. You can only wait.

And with the turn of the tide comes new water—completely different water to fill the empty, cover the exposed, and wash the muddy.

Today, I began to see the holiness in being empty. After all, wasn’t it an empty tomb that brought the promise of Life?

And I learned—it’s not an old me that I need to reclaim.

It’s a new me that I need to become.

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An Evening Walk

It was a balmy night, the kind of night you want to drink in gulps but can’t seem to swallow fast enough. The sun was just setting behind a plateau of red rocks, sending an offering of burnt yellow rays heavenward. A warm breeze flirted with the hem of my skirt and tugged at my hair lifting single strands like kites in a summer sky. The scent of late Spring blossoms danced along, teasing my taste buds with their sweetness. Quite simply, the air–dry and delicious–was alive. And so was I.

My senses intoxicated, I wanted to slow the seconds–to have time enough to breathe it all in and wrap it up with a beautiful bow for later opening and reopening.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked. “Mm hmm,” he answered.

We started South and the yellow light soon bent beneath the deep pink clouds which then gave way to an indigo dusk. Quietly, he slid his hand into mine, lacing his fingers in that way that he does and said … “Tell me something. Something about you.”

I thought for a minute. Where do you begin when there’s no limit to the answers? Memories and images flowed with the smallest of details and timidly, I began.

He listened as I talked, asked questions when he wanted to know more, laughed at the funny parts, and rubbed his thumb back and forth over my hand when I cried because of how deeply I felt about what I was telling him. It was easy, this conversation. Easy to tell him things. Easy to be myself. Easy to walk beside him.

It was his turn next. To “tell me something.” We zig-zagged back and forth, up and down different blocks, talking and not talking, laughing, listening, hand in hand, stopping to smell every flower within reach, saying hello to the neighbors, watching the moon rise, large and full, pregnant with soft light on the horizon.

And only when the sky grew black with night did we turn to make our way back home. One star hung low and bright in the western sky. Crickets chirped from the gardens by the sidewalk. I looked at our shadows stretched out long in front of us and all I could think was, how much more content could I possibly be?

 

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A Broken Piece of Bread & A Thimble Full of Water

When the sacrament finally made its way to me, I felt as though I needed to grab a handful of bread from the tray and eat it all at once. And when the water came, I wanted to drink a gallon. That’s the only way I can describe the feeling I felt Sunday morning after three days of memorializing my friend. It was a whirlwind of crying and hugging and reminiscing and eulogizing and laughing and crying some more.

The funeral was Friday. The burial Saturday. If I thought any semblance of composure I had left shattered when baby Sarah started crying “mommy!” when the casket was rolled away, I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I felt as the red Tennessee dirt fell, filling the hole in the ground, but breaking a new one in my heart.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. When you believe in miracles, you’re supposed to get miracles. By Sunday I was drained.

I craved the healing power of Christ’s atonement in the worst way. I needed Him to fix the gaping hole left in my heart, and in my faith. And so yes, I contemplated taking more than my fair share of the bread and water. After all, isn’t that what it’s for?

My heart still questions. My eyes still cry. But life has gone on. It has to, I know. And yet, I want to stop and scream sometimes. “Don’t you know?! Don’t you know that my friend just died? Don’t you realize that while you are worrying about silly, stupid things that a good man just lost his love and three little ones just lost their mother?”

But instead, I bow my head. And I pray. That, just like He fed the 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes, He can fill me with just a broken piece of bread and a thimble full of water.

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The Glass

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She awoke to light. The golden rays of dawn slipping through the blinds like silky legs under lingerie. Never an early riser, she blinked, softly, slowly, again and again until morning registered. Still not ready to leave the cocoon of cotton and fleece she’d wound herself into, she closed her eyes again, and sank deeper into the warmth.

To anyone else, the quiet might have seemed deafening, but having lived alone for a few years she’d come to understand that stillness isn’t silence and that lack of noise doesn’t mean lack of sound. If you listen long enough, with patience for the moment, you eventually notice the rhythm of your breath, the hum of a honeybee, the wind chime of leaves, the quiet groan of a settling house, God’s whisper in your heart. She called it the symphony of life and this morning she was content to enjoy the show from her bed for as long as possible.

But soon the call of day beckoned more loudly than the small, lovely sounds of morning and arching her back, extending her limbs, she rose from the downy pillows like the opening of a flower’s first petals in Spring. She sat, feet dangling over the side of her bed, gingerly tilting her head from one side to the other, trying to expel the night from her stiff frame.

Had she dreamed? Perhaps. Though she rarely, if ever, remembered night visions. She was more of a daydreamer, often lost in her own world, even when fully present in the one surrounding her.

Inviting the day with one, long deep breath, she set her feet on the floor and made her way to the kitchen. A lover of routines, but by no means rigid, she always followed a particular set of tasks whether she realized it or not. Standing at the sink she slid back the curtains and opened the window. The sun had not yet burned away the cool morning air and it filled the room from floor to ceiling with the opportunities of a new day.

She smiled to herself for no particular reason and reached for a glass. She marveled as the light passed through it, refracting in different directions, sending beams onto the counter. Had she been any less of the woman she was, she might have thought about how, much like the tall, clear glass in her hand, her life was a bit empty at the moment. At least that’s how it looked to many an outside observer.

But she had never been one to think in such a way. Certainly she’d had her moments of worry and concern. Certainly she’d felt alone at times. Certainly she’d wondered how to move forward. But never had she felt empty.

She reached for the faucet and began to fill the glass with water. Higher and higher it rose, almost to the top, but for some reason, on this morning, she didn’t move. Instead, she watched as the water began to flow past the rim, down the sides, and over her fingers. Rushing through her like a flood of energy, love and possibilities, the water poured, and she–happy, bright, ready–stood thankful for the overflowing glass she held tightly in her hands.

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Teaching Me How to Love

I’ve loved two boys in my thirty years. I was twenty-two the first time I fell. It was young love–the kind of love you feel when you still don’t really know what love is. And though sometimes I wish I didn’t have to “claim” it, I must, because even though it didn’t have a lot of depth–it was love. And I think perhaps that had it been allowed to progress, it just might have become more. But it didn’t. And while “loosing” it shattered my heart, I see how I was led from it, to something better. Something more. Something that expanded my capacity to be.

It was only a few months later, after that midnight heartbreak, that I sat in Church one Sunday disillusioned and distrustful. I still didn’t understand how he could say one thing and then take it back a few weeks later. I didn’t understand how quickly his head could be turned. But mostly, I didn’t understand how I had been so naive. I’m smarter than that. At least I thought I was.

That’s when he stood up. He, was tall, dark and handsome with a tweed jacket, or maybe it was corduroy. I can’t remember. Either way it had elbow patches. He announced where the Sunday School classes would be held and which one he would be teaching and I immediately knew which one I’d be attending. (How quickly a girl’s mood can change.)

For the next hour, I sat amazed–but not by the blue of his eyes (although I obviously noticed. How could I not?). My mind was reeling with the depth, and wisdom, and insight that spilled out of him. “It is a daily battle to maintain pure motives,” he said as he closed his remarks, and I walked away wondering about my own motives, evaluating and weighing their level of purity. Simply put: I was impressed and I wanted to know him. I was still wary, but I took my want to the Lord. “Father,” I said, “I want to be friends with him.” And Father answered.

Over the next three years, we became friends. We carpooled to work, ate dinner together, hung out with other mutual friends, and talked for hours. And hours. And hours. Oh did we talk. In the car after work, on a the peaks overlooking the city, in a mountain meadow surrounded by aspens, at my kitchen table, we’d talk of God, of relationships, of spirituality, of love. So often it came back to love.

He was a philosopher and a musician and I was wide-eyed, hungry for his thoughts. A typical conversation began, “What are you learning right now?” or “Tell me what you’ve been thinking about?” And then we’d go back and forth, back and forth. Floating ideas. Questioning validity. Engaged in each word with mutual respect. I told him my secrets and of my heartache. He shared his plans and the paradoxes of his life.

Later, I’d often find myself in the library, sitting Indian-style on the floor in between the stacks for hours at at time, fingering books, smelling their pages, determined to read more, learn more, be more, do more–because of him. I bought Kierkegaard and Plato, Diana Krall and Alison Krauss. I began making lists–of who I wanted to be and what I could accomplish. I could feel the broken parts of my heart piecing themselves back together.

Yes, we became friends. Dear friends. Always friends. And somewhere along the way, I began to love him. I find that I never say “I fell in love with him,” because … it wasn’t reckless like that first time. It was careful, and simple, and sincere. It was honest. And it changed me.

I asked him once why he never asked me out. He said he didn’t know–that he’d thought of it, but didn’t know. And we never spoke of it again. He eventually married another girl. A lovely soul full of grace. A girl who, I’m certain, I will become friends with. She’s perfect for him and fits in ways I never did.

But I loved him none-the-less.

I recently found a book he gave me on my twenty-fourth birthday and a few notes he’d left on my car throughout those last years of college, and as I looked at the familiar handwriting, I saw pieces of my history–pieces of me–flash in my memory. I felt that oddly-familiar feeling of adoration. I could remember how the smile felt on my lips when I saw him. I could remember the tingles in my toes when he played his guitar. I could remember the way my heart literally felt like it was doubling in size when he was near. I could remember how anything seemed possible to me when he was teaching. And while I no longer love him like that, I could remember what it felt like when I did.

I’d forgotten that that feeling is possible. That it exists and that I’ve felt it before.

Tonight, I learned his family’s world was rocked with a fierce tragedy. And as my knees bend, and my prayers rise, and my tears fall for him, I find that that piece of my heart–the one that I think will always belong to him–once again, has doubled. And though the feelings are different, he is still teaching me how to love.

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The Moment I Became An Adult


I’ve always been a planner – probably because of the security and control I feel in knowing what lies ahead. In fact I can’t remember a time when my Franklin wasn’t color coded and neatly divided (I tried the Palm and the Blackberry. But what can I say, I like paper and ink). There’s never been a day not filled with perfectly penned responses carefully thought out as I lay awake each night preparing for the coming day. There have even been moments when I’ve asked myself, “Krista, if such and such happened … What would you do? What would you say?” in the off chance such an event ever randomly did happen. Bottom line—I find comfort in the ability to remain poised and collected.

And so, since I plan, my adulthood was set in order way back in childhood. I had thought it all through, visualized it, written it down, and discussed it freely as though my name was Fate. I would go to college, become a high-school English teacher, get married when I was twenty-one, start having children when I was twenty-three, return to the Carolina coast and build our first home when I was twenty-five—for which I have all the color swatches, upholstery samples, furniture styles, and blue prints neatly filed—and then, finally, after working so hard to plan and accomplish, I would confidently walk up to adulthood, calmly introduce myself, and say, “I am here. I have arrived. I am now an adult.” After all that’s what adulthood is isn’t it?

Well. I’m thirty. I’m single. I have no children, and while I am a college graduate, I majored in journalism and work for a recording company in marketing. I live in Utah, and I am a renter. Please don’t misunderstand, I have a wonderful life and incredible opportunities, but somewhere along the way, adulthood tiptoed his way behind me (of course it wasn’t me who raced ahead of him), and it is he who taps me on the shoulder—every day in fact.

Despite my countless hours planning, despite my firm and adamant discussions with the future about how it was supposed to turn out, “it” didn’t listen and I don’t think I ever became an adult. It became me.

But if I was forced to pin-point a specific moment, maybe it was the morning I woke up to find a wrinkle in my smile and I raced to my nearest Mary Kay consultant to buy every anti-aging creme, serum, lotion, and spray she had in stock.

Or maybe it was the day they offered me a full-time job and I found myself diving head first into the depths of health insurance, salary bids, and dental plans. Maybe it was the day my dad handed me my taxes and said he wasn’t declaring me as a dependent nor was he filing them for me anymore. Or what about the time I went on vacation, paid for the whole thing myself, didn’t tell anyone I was leaving, and didn’t have to make sure it was OK.

Perhaps it was that hot summer day after graduating when I went looking for my first real place—you know, the non-student, unfurnished, fifty-percent chance your neighbor’s crazy housing. After my first appointment with a landlord I slowly climbed into my car, rested my head on my steering wheel, and crumbled as I watched my plans plunge into a tiny puddle on the floor, because I hadn’t thought to prepare for how it might feel to look for my first “home” … alone. I hadn’t thought to plan Plan B. Nobody told me to plan Plan B.

But then there was also that business meeting where I was the only girl surrounded by men my father’s age and I had to tell them how things were going to happen. Or it might have been the day I bought a bed, or the day I bought a couch, or the day I bought a vacuum cleaner. Surely you’re an adult when you buy your own vacuum cleaner. Or maybe it was that afternoon when I gave serious thought to retirement and staring my 401-K.

Maybe it was that time I caught a glance of myself in the rear view mirror and my breath caught in my throat because I looked so much like my mother. Maybe it was when 40 didn’t seem so old. Maybe it was the day I fell in love. Maybe it was the day he fell out of love. Maybe it was the day I finally realized he had never loved.

Who knows? But I am coming to the conclusion however, that adulthood has nothing to do with the house, the job, the husband, or even the upholstery. And it probably has nothing to do with age either. Perhaps, just maybe, it has everything to do with not knowing, knowing that you don’t know, and admitting that you don’t.

I really don’t know.

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The Preface … to Something

My house is dark and still. Quiet, if not for the hum of cool air pressing its way through the window screen, filling my room with the breath of life. Outside, the wind bends the world to its whim as the rain taps on rooftop, slides down the gutter, and spills into puddles of rippling rest.

I sit, curled beside the open window, watching the sky turn gray, then grayer. It’s almost electric with anticipation–the sky and I.

My life has become dichotomy personified as of late–an island girl, trying to make home in a desert. A sunshine lover, hungry for rain. A responsible adult, wishing for a wind storm in which to lose her caution. A contented woman, dreaming of other paths.


I am reminded of a night, similar to this, wherein I wrote:

I just deleted three paragraphs of honesty … simply because I’m not ready to be honest. I’m too scared of it right now. Afraid of what it will to do me and where it will put me. But I know I need to write. To get something out of me. And so, I write.

This weekend I’m staying with family friends. Sandra lets me come when I need. She hugs like a mom and listens like a friend. They have a lovely home–quiet and serene with a yard full of Aspens and a trail that leads to the hills. Bill plays the banjo on the porch each night before dinner and I find myself looking forward to it all day.

Friday night I was reading on the porch and stopped to look out over the valley. It was raining lightly and I could tell a storm was coming. I watched the medallion leaves flutter on the Aspen branches, quivering as the wind rushed through them. Maybe they knew a storm was coming too. Maybe they shook with fear. Or maybe they didn’t know at all and were simply dancing, excited for something they didn’t understand.

Their usually white trunks turned seal-slick gray as water streamed from sky to ground. Slippery wet, the rain rolled off their backs sinking deep into the roots. I could feel the wheels of my brain begin to turn. Cranking to draw the parallels. Churning with lessons I ought to learn. But I stopped. I didn’t want to think.

And then I saw it. Right there in front of me. How had I missed it? A perfect little nest. It was empty and I was fascinated. I stood up and leaned over the rail to get closer. Tiny twigs carefully woven, placed, and perched in the crook of a branch. It was lovely. Simply lovely. I wondered how on earth it stayed right there – perfectly balanced without falling. It looked as if nothing at all was supporting it.

The breeze turned cool and I went inside to read. Sandra came to join me. Darkness fell quickly and the wind kicked outside, howling down from the canyon. Rain poured sideways, lightning flashed, and thunder rumbled. As I gazed out the window, I remembered being a little girl huddled under blankets listening to the summer storms shake outside my window. Sandra looked up. “Storms make trees strong,” was all she said, and she turned back to her book. I too returned to the pages in my lap. I still didn’t want to think.

The next morning I woke up wondering and worrying how the nest had fared through the night. I ran upstairs and out to the porch, where there, in the crook of the branch, it sat. Not a twig had blown away. And not only that, but in place of yesterday’s emptiness was a robin. Wide-eyed with amazement, I suppose I leaned too close and startled the tiny bird because she chirped and flew away. And there on top of the twigs and moss sat two little blue eggs, no bigger than a couple of grapes. I offered a silent “thank you” to heaven. I felt as though I had been given a secret view of something special–a quiet peek into an intimate corner of Mother Earth, and I needed to thank the source.

I checked on the eggs all weekend. Not that I could do anything for them. And not that I needed to. They had been created in the midst of a storm and had weathered the wind perfectly fine without me. But I couldn’t help but want to make sure they were okay. It was as if checking on them and finding them safe meant that everything else in the world–my world–was safe too.

I know it all represents something. I’m certain of that. But I still don’t want to think. And I still don’t want to be honest. It’s just too much effort right now and I don’t think I have the stamina to see the corners upon which honesty will shed its light. But I know someday, sooner or later, I will write more. And what I will write will be about a life that quivers when the wind blows through. And about rain that smooths the outer edges as it sinks into the roots. It’ll be about the almost invisible support that cradles and balances the nests I build. About storms that make me stronger, and the quiet, perfect tokens of life found when I look right in front of me. It’ll still be about birds I suppose. But next time it’ll be about me too.


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At The Ocean’s Edge

The air was filled with the familiar scents of my youth–the sweet stench of oyster beds and marsh mud laced with salt water. The sun was high and bright, and as I emerged from the shadows of the sidewalk awnings, the light hit my face, my head involuntary tilting back so that every curve and angle of my face had full advantage of the warmth. My eyes closed and I took a breath so deep it felt like my lungs were in my toes. Within moments, I could feel the yellow rays seeping into my pores, probing past my skin, reaching through my muscles, and settling into my core.
When the sun calls, my soul responds.

And the sky. The sky was …

Cloudless.
A perfect blue.
The kind of blue I dream in.
I’ve walked those docks a million times. They were an extension of home. In fact, during the stifling months of summer, I often spent more time there, at the ocean’s edge, than I did inside our four humble walls on Indian Trail. I grew up living a life others envy. An island girl with a captain for a dad. And today, as I visited this truly, enchanting place, the nethermost regions of my soul came alive.

As soon as I placed one foot on the deck, my body instinctively knew how to respond to the gentle rocking of boat in water as waves lapped against the hull. I was like a baby in a cradle. Fitting, seeing that as a baby, my mother would put me in the cradle she kept in the engine room while she and my dad greeted tourists and showed them the dream world we lived in. And there I would sleep, rocking back and forth, back and forth, as we cruised down the sound. To this day, there is nothing that can carry me off to golden slumbers like the roar of those Twin Cummins NT8 55 diesel engines.

And so the tour begins …
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and welcome aboard the Holiday. She is safe, sturdy and comfortable, so everyone please sit back, relax and enjoy the cruise. We’re certainly glad everyone could join us for today’s dolphin watch nature tour. I’d like to introduce your crew to you, my name is Captain Mark of Hilton Head Island …”

My sisters and I have Dad’s entire narration memorized by heart. We recite it sometimes, and laugh at its predictability. But sometimes, when I am alone in the desert I now call home, I recite it just so I don’t feel so far away. I recite it so I don’t forget where I come from. So I don’t forget the things I know.

For because of this childhood education, between shrimp boats and slip knots, I can point out a great blue heron, a snowy egret, and a white ibis. I know the average wingspan of a brown pelican and can tell whether the tide is ebbing or flooding. I know when to harvest oysters and can cast a shrimp net with ease. I know how to catch crabs, sand dollars, and starfish. I know my port from my starboard and my bow from my stern. I know which “rope” is the spring line and how many species of shark live in our waters. I know how many acres of saltwater marshes exist in South Carolina and no matter how many times I’ve seen a dolphin surface, I’m always filled with scintillating awe.
After two hours cruising the creek and searching the sound, it was over. All too soon.
In so many ways, my day on the water in this land of perfect charm was … perfect.
It did me good to drink the sun and fill my belly with the Lowcountry.
And it does me good to share with you this place from which I come.

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