All in Place

When Time Slows Down

I think back to this Paris trip often. How gracious it was of my mom to not demand the time with me. How focused I was on seeing as much as I could, when the most meaningful and fleeting thing was beside me. The best part of Paris didn’t end up being the Louvre or the Seine. The best part of Paris ended up the time I spent with my mother.

Here I Sit

The act of writing itself carves out space for beauty in my life. This has always been true, but without the pretention of doing something big and important, I can relax into whatever shows up on paper—the mess and joy and struggle and grief and giggles of life. These are not the habits of a serious writer, of course. These are not the daily practices and evaluations needed to send a piece out into the world, just as letting the garden go to the wild won’t work as a long-term strategy. But this is what writing is to me right now, how I remember that writing starts with glimpsing into a world of magic, that it starts with, “Here I sit.”

The Full Spectrum

There is only one element I don’t want here in this jumble of life that is suddenly, surprisingly beautiful to me. Except sometimes I do want it, when the autism augments the good of who my daughter is without adding to her misery, that same misery we all know in one way or another during this life between Edens. What I want is for the autism to diminish, and if it can’t do that in her bodily experience, then at least it can grow smaller within the space it takes up in my imagining and understanding of this wonderful girl. I don’t yet know how to relegate it to its proper place, but I am hopeful. If my favorite house is the messy one now, then I can change and grow, too.

The Pecan Orchard

The Orchard stands at the end of the road. Waiting. Solid, robust, kindly, full of route and routine, of dank pockets where rain has padded the soil, of the sound of small, dry leaves shaken by the wind. Oh, all the stories I played there: it was a kingdom of the imagined, an arena of the kind of grace that allows for further creation—however misplaced, silly, phantastical, fleeting, and even unreal. 

I’ve Loved This

I have not liked it here, and I’ve felt guilty about not liking it here: I know I should be grateful for a roof over my head, a safe and warm place to sleep, enough money to pay the rent and other bills. I know we were lucky to have six years in our previous place, and to leave it on good terms. Yet I’ve missed the old place and struggled to find reasons to love the new. It has not felt like home, though we’ve adjusted, done our best to make it work. But now, ironically, as we prepare to leave, I’m realizing what I have liked, even loved, about this place. 

All Who Enter Here

When I was younger I came to this plot of land for years—almost 25 in a row—roaming the grassy shoreline, rowing around lily pads and tree stumps poking through the pond water, and running sweaty laps up and down Forshee Road. As an adolescent, I bloomed in the sensual soil of this place. I thrived during weeks like this one now, when I was the child vacationing here with my parents, brothers, and sisters. Year by year, we formed a kind of family liturgy, a joyful way of being together that transcended the reality of the modest little cabin and weedy pond.

What Light There Is

I have become, in the past few years, a seeker of the light. Now that it doesn’t pour over my shoulders each day, unasked and abundant, I’ve learned to keep an eye out for it. I can’t make it appear, but I still crave it, and I am learning to watch for—and appreciate—what light there is. 

Testing Siri

What I love the most about Siri is if I make a mistake—a wrong turn, for example—she doesn’t tell me. She just finds a new path for me without saying, “re-calculating.” Sometimes, I’d make a mistake on purpose, just to see if Siri could find me and figure out what to do with me next. She always did. Only a few times has she told me to, “proceed to the route,” and I do, wondering only for a moment if her robotic female tone sounds mildly snarky and exhausted with me.

Vernal Equinox

Three daybreaks in a row, I spot a long-necked snowy egret, a thing I’ve rarely seen on Ocracoke during crowded summers. I will see a fourth and a fifth before this week is out. I’m cycling on the sound side of this windy barrier island, 20–25 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina. I’m here in late winter, in time for the run up to Vernal Equinox and to learn from the elegant waterfowl and her windswept empty beaches how to be and think and pray afresh—how to work and play in an uncluttered, unfettered manner.

A Shimmer of Possibility

I remember which bookcase it was on, where it was on the shelf, what the light was like. Maybe I opened it to a sentence that might as well have been in neon, a passage I admired for its construction and loved for its truth. I've kept the book all these years and reread it, or at least part of it, a few times (evidenced by the geological strata of marginal notes). And for decades I’ve kept a little sign on my desk with one of her sentences, printed in a font that now seems to scream 1990s: “Work is the backbone of a properly conducted life, serving at once to give it shape and hold it up.” 

A Car with a View

The ring road was a real-life video game, a high-stakes bumper car ride. I opened my eyes as wide as I could, as if that would help me see better, scarcely daring to blink for fear of missing one of the Fiats or Ferraris zooming around me like moccasins whipping past a lazy water spider. There’s something of the primordial swamp about driving in Italy—it’s very much a sink-or-swim situation, wherein the fittest not only survive, but sprout scales, fins. Wings. I squared my shoulders and lowered my foot on the gas pedal.