Saturday, October 16, 2010

Time Stops, Then Races On To Catch Up

Fall is golden rod and beauty berry, wild daisies and all sorts of purple and yellow, black-eyed susans dancing in the pure, unfiltered light of a field.

Five minutes ago it was summer and that field was filled with blackberries, offering their fruit among the danger of their thorns, fingers reaching and plucking, being stuck and bleeding, juice and blood both.

Ten minutes ago it was spring and the dogwoods bloomed and were great clouds of white against blue sky, riot of redbud, shy salmon, delicate bloom of tung tree, great purple banks of azaleas, wisteria like grapes, hanging low off their yet-unleaved vines.

Fifteen minutes ago it was winter, the camellias blooming red and pink, white and purple, striped and pure color against glossy green leaves.

In five seconds it will be winter again. I see the camellias budding up, swelling in anticipation of their flower-birth.

This is how fast the seasons change. I swear.
This is why I take pictures, say "This is what spring looks like (fall, winter, summer) because it goes so fast I need to freeze it in that second, that glorious bloom of whatever it is.

And we swirl along with it all, panting to catch up, running, skimming the days like the water birds at the ocean's edges.

But some days, we stop. Time stops and we stop with it. A birth. The whole world stops for a moment as we take in a child's first breath, first cry, first reaching out for the breast.
A death. We hold a hand in a room filled with light or with protective, holy dimness, and a last breath is taken, we hold our own breath, waiting for what will not come and we may cry and we may smile, both, just as at a birth.

There are smaller stoppings of time. A song heard in a certain way can stop time. A lover's smile or touch can do that. Words on a page or a screen that resonate somewhere inside our bones can stop time for an instant. The sight of a field of flowers, or just one bloom, bee-buzzed and bending to the insect's weight and need. A meeting of someone you know will be a heart-friend forever. That tiny bump of time's abrupt pause, telling us to pay attention. Pay attention.

Time will gather itself and go on, even for the most profound of stoppings. That is the way of it.
But if we are lucky, we remember. We have paid attention, we have paid tribute with that attention. We remember.

Jessie is bringing home a young man tonight. She met him last summer over mandolins. I can see fingers flying (I was not there), I can see eyes looking up over fret boards, meeting and smiles forming.

How brave we are to let our hearts unmoor themselves from the safe anchor of solitude and yet, how we crave to find that person we can trust to catch our hearts as we send them to drift in the direction of those eyes, that smile.

And then! Oh. When hearts have been caught and words have been said and touch has been exchanged, to bring that person home, to BE that person being brought home to meet...the family because you never know- this might be one of those moments where time stops, or at least where the engine of it jutters awkwardly for a moment, the gears may grind (how can they not?) when we all meet and there is so much going on in that first moment (do you hear the whining of the belts, do you hear the clunk, the catch, the cough of the world?) when we meet him and he meets us and there is Jessie in the middle and I am nervous for us all.

Yes. Seriously. I am.
Poor Vergil.
Poor Jessie.
Poor us.
No matter how nonjudgmental we want to think we are- all of us- how can there help but be a moment, at least, an instant of judgment on all parts? If Jessie loves this man, then we must love him too, of course, but will it be a love-at-first-sight? Will we see what she sees? Will we find him worthy of our precious Jessie's heart?
And how will we look to him? Our crazy family, the tall and the short, the hippies and the not-so, the former jock daddy who hunts and the loony mama who cooks and fusses and worries too much? The brother, the sisters- will we resemble a wall made of different sort of rocks the poor man has to figure out how to get over, under, through?
Oh. I hope not. I hope he knows we are here to welcome him from that very first second, as awkward as it may be. We are not a wall, just a family of arms and hearts which encircle each other tightly, but never too tightly. We let in people all the time, joyfully, and with great interest.

And poor Jessie. Will she be worried that he will like us? That we will like him?
Oh. I hope not.
I hope that it all goes so well.
I will apologize for my stew which I cooked too long. I will apologize for the dogs who bark too loudly. I will apologize for this and for that, because that's what I do.
But I will take last summer's blackberries out of the freezer to make a dessert. I will pick this fall's greens from the garden to make a salad. I will have today's flowers from the woods and fields on the table.
I will welcome this man and so will we all on this fall evening and even as the moon rises and the earth hurtles itself through space and the tides rise and fall to the rhythm of the universe and our hearts beat their everlasting-unto-death tattoo to rush our blood through us, I feel a coming hesitation as something possibly profound occurs.

We shall see, won't we?

I hope he likes us. (She whispers nervously.)

I hope love just powers us all back up to speed, quickly and with grace.
I think it will. I have great faith in that. And then, as time catches up, I hope we just have some pure-T fun.

We shall pay attention, we shall pay tribute to the moment with smiles. We will remember that we are all just folks, coming together on this fall evening, as perfect and imperfect a group of folks you'll ever want to meet.

I wonder if we'll dance, which is another way of stopping time, my favorite form of prayer.
Well, if not tonight, soon. Under this moon or that.
Time leaps ahead but we won't know what it holds until we get there. In the dance. As we hold hands and stop time, as we laugh and stop time, as we shuffle our feet and stick out our butts and glide across the speeding universe on the wooden boards of this house.


  1. Ahh, Dear Mary, there is so much poetry in this writing, in this moment for Jessie and her love and her family. My heart is rushing toward you and yours through the ether, holding you all in a rose light.

    How could he not love you all?!

    Hugs and Keeses. N2

  2. Well, you made me cry, damn it. Tears sweet and achey, perfumed with dish soap.

    I cannot read you without feeling the odd bindings that tie the two of us together draw themselves yet tighter.

    It feels a tender thing.

    Your great and true fan-


  3. N2- Some things just must be written. The very air seems to dictate it. I feel your heart. I do. Thank-you.

    Tearful- I know. And it is very tender. I am YOUR great and true fan. Believe me.

  4. I think that it will all be good. Jessie and her Virgil, you and the cooking and the dogs and all of it.

  5. Oh, Mary. How would he not love you all? Like Syd says, it will be sweet, and friendly, and new and good. If Jessie likes him so much, then even if you're not sure, you will be sure there's more to find.

    And newness is great - everyone looks so much shinier and better before you get to know their insecurities and habits and defenses and so on. Embrace the first meeting! Make a night to look back on in laughter and in fun.

    Don't be nervous, just be. Silly :)

  6. A mother's heart. And what Syd said.

  7. What a gorgeous post! Your writing is sheer poetry.

    As for will he like you and could he help it. And as for whether or not you will love him at first sight......if Jesse loves him you will learn how to.

  8. Your words have the wings of poetry today and the loft of love. A treasure.

  9. It makes my breath catch in my throat -- this anticipation -- I can still remember those young and youthful moments when we brought home the men and the men brought us home. I hope and trust that it will be good.

  10. I find the whole thing very exciting. Of course you will all love each other.


  11. I hope it is going well -- I am sure it is!

    You summed up the whole falling in love and meeting the family thing so well.

    Can't wait to hear all about it.

  12. this is WOW.
    seriously. you are brilliant and lyrical and a writer.

  13. Syd- It was good. All of it in its crazy imperfection.

    Jo- It was shiny. You were right.

    A- A mother's heart is a fierce and tender thing, isn't it?

    Lo- He's pretty darn great.

    Denny- Thank-you!

    Elizabeth- I know. It's like Jessie is letting me look at the world through her eyes right now, just as Owen does. It's something.

    Michelle- Of course.

    Jill- I remember it! I do! How it feels. Phew.

    Bethany- And it was.

    Stephanie- Oh. MY goodness. Or, the goodness around me.

    deb- Thank-you so much. Those words nestle in my heart.

  14. Mary....Mary....loved this today...I so know what you mean! Each time a new boyfriend came we would wonder. Then when we start to get to know each other we still wonder. We have to let go and accept our loving grown kids will pick that special one when the time is ripe and right. We want the love to be fully circled..because they were a part of us first...we don't want to lose that bond..we are more than willing to open the circle and let in a new loved one..
    Poetry of life you wrote and my heart skips a bit...hugging you!

  15. Thank-you again for the shear poetry. You remind me to cherish the sensitive youthful hearts in my own life that may not even know how much they yearn for love and acceptance.

  16. Hello dear heart, I so wanted to read this aloud to Lon, who is driving us across Arkansas at the moment, but I knew I would just weep inconsolably at it's loving beauty. Lucky us. Lucky Jessie. Lucky Vergil. We all have you.

    xo xo

    I think next week might work out!!!

    Love you so.

  17. Ellen- Oh. Thank-you. You know EXACTLY what I am talking about.

    Sandra- We should all remember that. It is a most important part of our lives.

    Mwa- Amen, baby.

    Call me when you can.
    Love you both so much.

  18. If there is a better family to join, I don't know of one.

    I love you.

  19. Ms. Bastard-Beloved- And you don't even have to DATE anyone in our family to be part of it. You could if you wanted to, though. Hell, I'd date you.

  20. And I would date all of you at once. I have a lot of love to give!

    I adore all y'all.

  21. Very sweet and of course; filled with love!


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