We are in British Columbia. Beloved place, mountain covered, more trees than can be counted. A few days ago, Chinua played a small concert. It had been smoky for weeks, with wildfires raging across hectares of land. I have been a bit disappointed, because we haven’t been able to see what is around us and the sun has been a red ball in the sky. Beautiful in an eerie way, but still, looking out, I knew the lake was there, and the mountains, but we couldn’t see them.
But as we were setting up for Chinua’s concert, winds began to blow. The trees whipped back and forth, and clouds rolled in. It was delightful, but, thinking of the equipment, we set up inside rather than outside like we planned. The music was beautiful. Our friend Andrew Smith opened, and it was an intimate living room concert, including a couple Duke Ellington songs where Chinua joined Andrew, jazz soloing on the mandolin. (He’s creative, my Superstar husband.)
And then I could smell rain coming in through the windows. A long, smoky few months had dried out the ground, and the drops of water reacted like magic. That compressed-dust-meets-rain smell is one of my oldest memories. In the morning, there were puddles on the ground. Rain like this in a time of fire is no small thing. The skies cleared. We can see for miles. We can see all the layers of hills, one behind the other, ringing out. The dry bluffs with scatterings of trees. The orchards. A sliver of lake in the distance.
I keep coming out of jungles and looking around, happy to be in a spacious place, but then finding another jungle to press into. The heat under these trees can be oppressive. I think, “Now I’ve got this family thing down. I know how to mother these people,” but then someone ages a year, or goes through grief, or shifts in a way that changes the air in our family. We have ripples and currents, and these things aren’t things I can control.
Out of control. Perhaps my whole life has been one long exercise in giving up control. When you are a mother of small children, you can’t control their emotions, or whether the jam jar will slip out of their hands and smash in a wondrous pile of glass and goo on the floor. But you can decide on a fun thing, you can smooth over feelings and change the tone.
I’m finding it harder to do that with teenagers. What wondrous things they are. A full spectrum of mind and emotion, teetering between hope and fear, full of energy and chaos. This is a more challenging tone to change. To bring peace in these storms is no easy feat.
I love my oldest more than he can ever know. And in a few short years I will help him walk away from me. Giving up control. It turns out that I don’t hold the world together. I can’t answer all his questions or sweep everything from his path to make sure it is clear for him. I can’t even always get along with him. How we are humbled by our children.
Things I love:
Eyes filled with love.
Every kind of tree and bird.
Notebooks and pens.
Days that stretch in front of me, ready for ideas, play, love.
Is love the strongest thing? Is the love of God enough? Yes and yes. My dear friend recently traveled to be near to someone close to her, someone who had suffered violence against herself. My friend carried love of God with her and it couldn’t answer every question, it couldn’t alleviate every fear, but it came into the room and curled up beside them and brought the goodness back.
That is what I want. The goodness back. Not the hate or offense. Not the complications, the misunderstandings, the resistance. The goodness, thrown like a sheet over a soft bed, ready for you to sink in. Love that swirls around, filling the hurt places. To wake up and be ready to be surprised.
The other day we sat out on the patio, and as night fell, the crickets started chirping. Well, one cricket, and something else that might have been a cricket or might have been a frog. As we discussed whether it was a cricket or a frog at length(simple pleasures, at heart I live in a village), Isaac piped up.
“No, it’s a star.”
“Did you say it’s a star?” I asked.
“Yes, that’s the way the stars sound. The night sounds.”
“Oh, back in Pai? When you hear these sounds? That’s the way the stars sound?”
“Yes. And the way the night sounds,” he said.
And that, my friends, is when I realized that Isaac has grown up hearing crickets and frogs, and assumed that is is the sound of the stars or the night sky.
We can’t know, really, what’s going on. For now we see in a mirror dimly. We may see a sky full of smoke, and just beyond is the view of mountains, city, lake in the distance. Unless the smoke is washed away, we might never know the mountains are there.
I often see through the haze of my anxiety. Every once in a while it blows away and I look around, astounded by how bright everything is. But the smoke settles again, the way the smoke has settled here again, a few days after the rain. I’ve been hoping for years that the smoke would clear permanently, but I’m starting to believe that I will always be looking for glimpses. Times when the whole thing emerges, the whole huge picture of love and goodness, what it can all be, and I nearly fall down from the beauty of it.
And then we may hear crickets rubbing their legs together and think the sky is singing. So on days when the sky is hidden by smoke, and it seems that there are no stars, we know we can still hear them. They are still there.