Overheard, Yellow Springs, Ohio, on a single day in my grateful life: People singing show tunes around the piano at Emporium Wines & The Underdog Cafe this morning; Antioch College students singing together in the Olive Kettering Library; Grace itself in the form of the World House Choir singing, this evening, singing to the Mother of us all, the earth.
The world feels full of beauty and love, at the moment. I’ll cling to this notion, make it my lifeline, for the rainy, dark days that are surely ahead.
Hardly an original thought, but I am starting to understand how much “our” (=all) children need nature. Even the grownup children. In my mind, this thought, which is so simple, connects to this song.
Lyrics by Khalil Gibran, Music by Ysaye M. Barnwell
Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself
They come through you but they are not from you and though they are with you
They belong not to you
You can give them your love but not your thoughts
They have their own thoughts
You can house their bodies but not their souls
For their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow
Which you cannot visit not even in your dreams
You can strive to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you
Strive to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you
It is impossible to overstate how bittersweet it is to watch a child grow up. The process is so slow that it becomes invisible, and then one day, the infant is walking, the toddler is speaking, the child is telling stories. She runs and stumbles and gets up and isn’t scared and she climbs to the top of the blue jungle gym. When she stands there, realizing where she is, she says, “Mama, help me,” and while I calmly coach her to find a place to put her feet, I am not breathing, I am “please don’t fall!”ing, and I am trying to know with my own body that she is balanced and strong and wise and that even if she falls, this is the work she needs to do on this day, at this moment. It is exactly right.
(I can house her body but not her soul…For her soul dwells in a place of tomorrow which I cannot visit not even in my dreams, and this fact is what is so beautiful and this fact is what breaks my entire heart.)
She finds her feet, she climbs down, she smiles with exhilaration and now she has done her work of this day and I have not done it for her, I have resisted even trying, and this means that she knows she can do it herself. She can do it herself.
And you know what? I do not want the children to be just like us. Please no! I want them to find a better way to live here on this earth. Meanwhile, let’s help them learn by stepping aside and letting them put their bare feet on the earth, letting them feel the mud and water and prickly grass, and letting them pay attention and do all those beauteous things that surround us every day, those things we forget have such significance in the constant rush of rush rush rush.
A tiny, important thing is happening in my yard. The little white lilac is blooming.
Here’s the history of my beloved, best ever lilac tree. When I read that old post from 2006, I marvel at how long ago that was in personal years. Since then, I had a daughter, the country house is larger, now almost roomy, thanks to an addition. And the white lilac shoot has been moved to its second country house location (to make room for the addition).
A harsh winter, a rainy spring, and now there’s beautiful popcorn on the small tree. I breathe in its heady fullness. I look back and think of how I wanted to kick the ass of the people who cut it down. I think back to how I considered the word “evil” in the cutting down of that good grandmother lilac tree. (Now, rather than “evil,” I would call it “unskilled,” and the word would not be a euphemism.)
I savor these blooms. May the years provide many small but important moments to celebrate flexibility, evolution, and the tender cycle of life.