I went to bed, and had one of the worst sleeps I have had in years. It was interrupted by two of my three girls. Nichol was peppered in there, in the brief spells of sleep, where dreams, and awakening walked a fine line together.
We were on a beach. There also was some old friends from college there. There was a thatched roof hut set up on a beach, with drinks being made, and food being served. The sea was raging, and the sky was black. The waves kept crashing in closer and closer to us, devouring more and more beach with every pound. The wind was whipping, and my hair kept getting blown in front of my eyes, and into my mouth. The horizon had the blackest sky, with lightning flashing and the slow groan of thunder approaching. Everyone was laughing, and having a great time. They were trying to light pillar candles, and giggling over their futile attempts to light the match. I didn't understand how they all could be smiling, and carrying on with themselves, when right behind my shoulder was such danger. How could they all hear themselves laugh over the crashing surf, and pelting rain, and howling wind? How could they not see what was happening all around us? Did they not see the ominous sky, right before them? Could they not sense the danger?
Open drawers, and the sugar canister left out. Every morning. Half open drawers on the dresser, and some mornings, the medicine cabinet is ajar. Why can't David close these things all the way? Every day, I push drawers in so they are flush with furniture. Every day, I hang damp dish towels, that I find in wet lumps on the counter. David is a selective perfectionist. Some days, it makes me swear under my breath. Some days, it makes me smile.
The deer here are inbred, and mangy looking. There are too many of them, that should be hunted to thin them out. They seek shelter in the woods here. No one will kill them. They are safe. Protected. So they are everywhere. They eat everything. Plants, flowers, even right out of your garbage cans. They are unafraid of people. If you get too close to them, they stomp their hooves, and blow hot air out of their nostrils.
They don't eat daffodils. The daffodils come up every spring, and they steer clear of them. In the small rock garden in front of my house, daffodils come up each year. Planted among them, years before I lived here, is a peony. I noticed it the first year we lived here. I thought it was a weed sprouting, but I let it go, to see what came up. The deer found it, and ate it. The following spring, it returned. This time, I was sure it was something other than a weed. I sprayed it with the awful deer spray we must constantly spritz on anything we want to see thrive and not be chomped to the stump. It is a stinky mix of eggs, and garlic, and mint. The deer don't go near it.
The weed turned into a plant, and the plant grew a flower bud. A tight, perfectly round golf ball. The first summer, it was one, fluffy, tissue paper flower. In the years to come, it yielded more. I spray it religiously, each week, every year. Some people in my neighborhood have fences around each plant on their property. Large nets encasing the flowering plants they love. I always think those plants look kind of sad. Delicate blossoms behind bars.
Some weeks ago, going through old papers, I found a tattered newspaper clipping. My mother cut it out of Ann Landers, many moons ago. I used to love someone very much, for many years, who never quite returned my feelings, but always led me to believe, that one day soon, he would. He never did, and I spent far too many years waiting on the day that was never to be. It is a corny poem, when I read it now. Yet, I held on to it for years. Literally years. It meant so much to me, that each time I changed purses, I put the poem in with the other contents. I referred to it constantly. It always, always, made me cry. I felt that it was speaking right to me. That the author wrote it for me.
It is called After a While
After a while you learn
The subtle difference between holding a hand, and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning and company doesn't always mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts and presents aren't promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build your roads on today because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans. And futures have a way of falling down in mid flight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much, so you plant your own garden, and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn.That you really can endure. That you really are strong.
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and you learn.
With every goodbye, you learn.
-Veronica A. Shoffstall
Bumper stickerish? Yes. Sappy as hell? Yes. Yet, as I read the words for the first time in many years, I felt, both sad for the young girl I was, so long ago, finding comfort in those words, and thinking how slowly, yet beautifully those words have revealed themselves to me. Like the peony, out in my rock garden. It took a while for me to notice it, and it didn't quite get off the ground right away, but with care, and protection, yet free from fences, to bask in the sun, even with the threat of deer, it grew. And it is lovely.
I look around, and know that life is happening all around me. It is almost as loud as it is visible. These girls. This man. Oh this man, with his half opened drawers, and soggy dishtowels, and shower curtains left to the side...it is all here. Like the beautiful beach party. They are all lighting the pillar candles right in front of me, and laughing at the strong wind. They are making the party so much fun, and they don't even notice the dark swirl right behind their backs.
So, while I am standing on the sand, I think that instead of running, and hiding in fear, from the frightening dark sky, I will dig my toes into the sand, and enjoy the crashing of the waves. And smell my hair as the wind whips it in front of my face. And listen to my babies giggle, while they are still this small.
I sense the danger. Every day, I feel it is too close. But the storm clouds must pass eventually. It cannot rage on forever.
You do learn.