Arcs and prisms…

Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

-Theodore Parker

I first learned to shoot a gun at the age of twelve.  I still remember sitting on the floor of the cavernous, musty Arena in town with others my age staring down the barrel of a 22 caliber while “the Bobs” barked orders.  Maybe you have that same memory.    Taking Gun Safety wasn’t an option or a rite of passage; it was an absolute, non-negotiable requirement in a family full of hunters. Once I had my permit, my dad took me to a gravel pit and set up pop cans on a log so I could practice.  Despite everyone’s best efforts to turn me into a hunter, I became a gatherer.  I don’t think this makes me an anti-gun whack job, but I suppose it just depends on who you ask.

I have lived north of the Mason-Dixon line my entire life and have only driven through the Southern U.S. twice.   Most of what I know about the Civil War, I learned in high school History class. I suppose that reading Gone With the Wind and watching “Roots” on television years ago filled in some blanks, too. And when I see a Confederate flag, I think of Daisy Duke, not hate groups.

I am a woman married to a man.  A good one.  For over three decades.  We’ve built a marriage that is like most pretty good ones.  One in which we continue to decide every day to be decent to each other.  One that I hope to grow old in since the alternative seems awfully lonely.   We were married on a sunny June day in St. Mary’s in 1983.  Someday, maybe we’ll take a trip to the South so I can bone up on my Civil War history.  And if we do, nobody will bat an eye or question whether or not we are actually a married couple.

It has been a grief-filled, grace-filled, terrible, joyous June.  It just depends on who you ask.  My Facebook news feed has exploded with memes and quotes and images of flags of different colors being raised and lowered.  As I scroll through social media, I try hard to remember that we are all swept up in the historical significance of a whole lot of stuff.  And when my finger hovers over the “Unfriend” button a little too long, I remind myself that everyone has a right to express their views.  That while I may vehemently disagree, that I can still choose friendship and love over hate.  That I must choose love.

There is more than enough hate, after all. History has proven that.

It just depends on who you ask.

Fingers….

I will begin by saying that I have raised a four year old boy so I’m not judging his parents one bit.  And while it has been twenty years since I actually HAD a four year old boy, I totally understand how one gets away from you.  They are sly little suckers. All angelic looking when they’re sleeping but hell on wheels when their eyes are open.  No mother ever thinks she’s going to survive having a four year old boy because they are just that busy.  And nuts.  Did I mention that they are completely nuts?  They take apart stuff that isn’t supposed to be taken apart.  And they mess up things that they aren’t supposed to be messing with in the first place.  They run and yell and argue because they are, well….nuts.

If you are the mother of a four year old boy, you understand.

And so, it was no surprise that I saved a four year old from a snapping turtle a week ago.  When I saw the snapping turtle making its way across the grass, every fiber of my being told me that the four year old across the street was going to find that turtle to mess with.  There is probably some cosmic law that says that if a four year old boy sees a snapping turtle they just have to try to touch said snapping turtle.  Parents should be warned about this when their sons are born and then avoid any possibility that those sons will come within ten blocks of a snapping turtle…ever.

It was a lovely June morning full of the sounds of birds and the laughter of children when I looked out the front window at the cabin and noticed the enormous snapping turtle trying to navigate the cement curb by the road.  She’d gotten herself hung up on it and was rocking like crazy to lower her front claws to the pavement so that she could cross the road.  This probably wasn’t how she’d envisioned starting her day when she set out to find a nice gravel driveway in which to lay her eggs.  I went to make coffee and had breakfast and figured she’d figure it out eventually.  I read the newspaper and got dressed and didn’t think any more about Mother Turtle.

An hour later, I glanced out the window and saw a four year old boy I didn’t know low on his chubby haunches in the grass near the gravel driveway with one chubby hand extended to something in the grass in front of him.  He was completely engrossed and for a split second, I thought that maybe he’d found a baby bird or a butterfly.

And then, it hit me.

Since I’m a big believer in the “village” approach to keeping four year old boys from losing fingers, I bolted across the street and in my best hey four year old, listen up! Mom voice yelled, “Stop! Don’t touch the turtle!” to which he looked up, blinked, and said in his most reasonable four year old voice, “I’m only touching the shell!”  Like it was completely logical and acceptable that he’d be doing this for kicks.  Like he was thinking, hey old lady that I don’t know who is in my four year old business…loosen up! Relax! It’s only a turtle, for cryin’ out loud!

You get older.  Your kids grow up.  You think you’re past those moments of sheer terror that come with having little ones.

And then you see a snapping turtle and a four year old boy nose to nose and you realize that whether or not you even know the four year old boy, you’re still part of the village.  His village.

You just are.

Duck, duck, duck……

Ducklings bounce. They do.

The mother wood duck at the bottom of the large elm tree coaxed each of her fluffy gray ducklings from the wooden box nailed to the trunk. First, with a low cluck-cluck-cluck, and then with a more insistent CLUCK- CLUCK- CLUCK!!! One by one, the babies’ dark heads emerged. Each one looked down. They listened. And when they were ready, each one perched at the round hole on the side of the box and jumped.

When they hit the grass far below, they bounced.

Some of them recovered by sitting for a bit, blinking and stunned by what they’d just accomplished. Others bounced once and then took to running in wild, wobbly circles, dizzy from the fall. Instinctively, some ran right to Mama to wait for further instructions while others tried to take off into the big world on their own. An hour later, after the last one had finally launched itself and was safely on the ground, the hen organized her brood of twelve and down to the river they marched. Single file. Twelve tiny gray minions and one very hoarse mama duck.

The first time I ever saw this miracle, I was about twelve years old. My grandmother had come into the house at the lake and told us to look out the bedroom window because “it” was happening. My Sis and I knew what “it” was. We’d seen the mother wood duck go in and out of the nest many times each day that June with food in her bill so we knew she’d hatched her eggs. Yesterday, as I avoided the rotten stump of that elm tree with the mower for what seemed like the hundredth time, I remembered that soft twelve year old summer morning and my grandmother’s voice telling us to watch something amazing. To keep watching. To not miss the small, but amazing miracle happening right under our noses. It is one of the best lessons she taught us.

My wise and very funny sister draws parallels between baby wood ducks and children. How some of them approach life by jumping into it confident and sure while others hold back to see how things are going to work out for the other ones. Some have a hard time focusing long enough to find the hole in the box, at all. We’ve raised five child ducklings between us. Each one is a completely different duck, for sure. We have a couple who’ve leapt into life full force with a hardy “woo hoo!” and a couple others who’ve waddled around a little lost until they’ve found their feet. The baby duckling is still in the nest. She is a dreamer with a capital D more prone to focusing on the lovely wood grain on the inside of the weathered box than flight. That’s okay. One day she’ll find the hole, too. That’s what I tell my sister.

She’ll bounce, just like the rest did. And like the others, she’ll find her way to the river. They all do, eventually. On their terms. No matter how much clucking we do.

It’s kind of a miracle, actually.

Big love.

“Where there is love there is life.”
Mahatma Gandhi

We baked a pie, she and I. Even though the wild blueberries in the forests and bogs won’t be ripe for at least another month and we had to use the last bag of berries that I had squirreled away in the freezer.

She knows that when nothing else makes sense, pie still does.

It will be delivered to a young woman we love like family who, this month, is loving with the pin point laser focus that a terminal diagnosis brings to people who are accustomed to loving each other in less terrifying, time-sensitive ways.  She has asked her friends not for sympathy, but a commitment to loving better, and harder, and deeper.

And so, we are doing just that. Loving bigger. And in our family, nothing says big love like a wild blueberry pie. So my girl measured out the berries and the sugar while I rolled the top and bottom crusts. I checked the pie every ten minutes to make sure it was the perfect shade of brown before I set it on the counter to cool. The entire kitchen smelled like love by the time it was ready to wrap in foil for the trip to St. Paul.

Last night, I sat in the porch watching fireflies flicker and dance in the woods and thought about my young friend. The one who is losing her father.  I added his name to the list of people I know who are currently fighting cancer. The list is too long. Too. Long.  I lifted his name up to Whoever’s In Charge in the Universe.

The entity responsible for not only blueberries, but fireflies and cancer cells.

The one who made daughters.

And dads.

And love.