A plump groundhog atop a weathered picnic table awaiting the salad bar of his dreams. A boy’s tennis racket gone missing, his bare neck and back soft to the touch in the still of morning. Another boy now able to care for younger children in another house with a forest for a backyard and a buoy swing hung over a boulder dating back to the Ice Age. Songbirds flit about like tourists, narrating the longer days beginning before dawn with their whistles, trills and calls. You weren’t sleeping, were you? The crows perform a matinee vibrating loudly through treetops, enthralled in a series of hunger games and demands, determined to achieve their objectives by whatever means necessary.
This is the season of unknowing. It’s the season of slowing and growing.
Colorful drawings hang from the stairway leading up to the tucked away room where photos are placed under the weight of a small sculpture. Reminders of soulful friends and times past, essential ways of being in the world not to be forgotten. Windows peeled open on the first steamy morning are later forgotten and left agape for days—long after the temperature had dropped and the wind had gusted a wonderous, thunderous storm. Paper scraps scattered all about, a thick layer of pollen left streaked across the sill. The expensive frames were left safe, a work-in-progress unscathed.
Hunched over and combining little bits of paper, my back grows achy and the tips of my fingers thicken with glue. Rising and walking through the quiet house, bare feet gripping wood stairs, my attention settles away from the strenuous efforts of my mind and onto the quiet of something more trustworthy. I absorb a fleeting moment—a sweet and gracious space between work and the odd impulse for more work. Large, ungainly constructs of thought are suddenly quiet, a friendly energy arising. It seems as if I’ve been wrapped up in a shroud of kindness. Climbing down multiple sets of stairs, I abide with the hum of my surroundings, of my contented heart and an unshakable truth present in the silence.
At the sink I turn the water to warm and lather dish soap from a tall container into my palms, massaging it all around. Using the textured side of the sponge, I begin scrubbing away thick adhesive from my nails, dropping layers into the sink. A feeder hangs just outside the window in front of me, in need of filling. Only a tiny layer of seed remains in the base. A small bird with a splash of yellow on its breast flashes onto it and then zips away. Then another lands and stays, nibbling, as if caught in my gaze. Warm water continues to flow, my spine unfurling, fingers softening again.
It was bedtime when we remembered the containers at the farm stand down at the end of our long driveway—across the unpaved road and nestled against a grove of trees. The pavement was damp with evening dew and layered with pine needles turned rusty brown by the heat of the afternoon sun. We’d had a “soft” opening a few days before with a few neighbors partaking in the muffins we’d offered. So far there was only very minor interest in the greens.
I imagined wildlife tampering with our goods in the night and further wilting of the already droopy kale. Moving the chard—and the mint (garden fresh for your mojito!)—into the basement fridge until morning would keep them edible for another day.
Jonah was game for an outing, pulling on rain boots in the garage while I zipped up my favorite hoodie, leaving my feet bare. There were lights to turn on along the driveway, but we grabbed a small black flashlight instead. Keeping it off at first, I felt my way forward, noticing the layer and prick of pine needles beneath my feet.
The canopy of trees in the yard, combined with the position of our home created a cylindrical view of the open sky. Tipping my head back and looking up, I noticed a flash of awe expanding somewhere between my heart and mind. A feeling reserved for the unique impact of an inky black night filled with stars. A generous reminder of our existence as a part of a galaxy, a living, breathing mystery—regardless of our size.
Luminous balls of energy held together by their own gravity seemed to peer down at us in some inexplicable way. As if they could radiate an offering. As if they could see us. The hotter stars apparently emit bluer light and last for a few million years while the cooler ones glow more-red and can keep burning for billions of years. This seems like a metaphor, but for what? Standing there in the brisk night I wonder how-many of us they must have seen come and go.
Jonah and I begin walking side by side down the stretch of pavement, continuing without the flashlight. For a moment he slips behind me in an attempt to either frighten or tease me, either one amusing for him to do. Finally, about halfway to our destination, I turn on the flashlight, illuminating the driveway and revealing the contrast in color between the wet black pavement and the rusty pine needles. Jonah takes the flashlight from me and begins fiddling with it, discovering the beam of light can be widened and contracted by turning the head of the instrument.
Nearing the end of the driveway I take the flashlight back and turn it off, continuing to walk forward through a shallow puddle at the beginning of the unpaved road and onto a pebble strewn surface where the rocks begin poking the bottom of my feet. At the wooden structure we collect our containers and begin walking back to the house, chatting about our plans for the farm stand and hopeful for what might evolve in years and seasons to come. I’m contemplating what it means to be at the beginning of things and how our actions can ripple across time.
Jonah stays in the driveway while I carry our wooden trays toward the entry of the house. At the front porch, a warm glow emanates from inside and I remember how intriguing it is to observe a home at night from the outside-in, imagining what is taking place inside.
The carpet at the front door is inviting and I can see well into the dining room, past the many plants surrounding the wood stove and clear to the far side of the house where there is a row of windows.
Just after I’ve placed our things on the counter, Jonah calls from outside, “Mom, look!”
Returning to the door, I witness him discovering the enormous capacity of the light beam as he shines it up into the cylindrical space in between the house and the canopy of trees. It seems as if he is shining the light right back up to the stars, returning their glow.
I run to the middle of the yard, hopeful I might capture his profile in the lens of my camera but quickly see that I cannot. I take in his curiosity instead, recording it in my mind along with the interplay between our light and the natural world. Later I will wonder whether the stars count us among the many they have seen.