Two years ago today I wrote this about my friend Rose, and it continues to be one of my most read pieces. Rose is keeping on in the right good old way, imperfectly and often eccentrically, but what else would you expect from a redhead?
Right now I am taking a break from weeding the raspberries, sitting in the shade with my back against the dry-stack wall my husband built from creek rocks. This job would’ve taken no time a year ago, but now my belly is tender and breathing doesn’t come easy leaning over. I am slower and need to drink and eat and rest more. This is because there is a new member in the community. I am learning that who I am has nothing to do with my waist size or the amount of work I can get done. Who I am was all along more about this new person inside than those other things.
We don’t know if the baby is a boy or girl, but we have names. Well-aged, simple names. My grandmother’s opinions swing drastically these days and though she liked the girl name at first, now she doesn’t. She literally scoffs.
“Well that’s gotta be the oldest name in the world,” she said, “I mean, wasn’t that the first woman?” The name is not Eve, dear reader, and so the answer is no.
There is something I want to tell you. I never thought I would write a book because I didn’t have a subject. There was nothing I could say that someone else couldn’t say better, and maybe that’s still true, but I do have a book inside me now nonetheless. I know what it is, and what its name will be. It will take time, because it needs me to live longer and steadier and slower, and maybe suffer, maybe many years. But I can feel it moving inside me sometimes and I know it has life. I wanted to let you know, as many of you have let me know you are there and listening, even to tell me when I spell a word wrong, as I am prone to do.
The book— it is an old simple subject, maybe one of the first ideas, and I know I will go about it imperfectly, but God doesn’t seem to withhold anything from us because of this, does he? Or else I would’ve have two good things to rub together.
Yesterday, Mama hurt her back and on the way out the gate Dad called and asked me to check on her as soon as I could. So I walked to their house in the early morning, carrying a load of laundry because our dryer is broken. She needed a cup of coffee and a breakfast of leftovers from the meal we made together the night before. “And one other thing,” she said, “would you do me a big favor?” She reminds me so much of her father with that dramatic lead.
“Go down to the spillway and get us some minnows for the rain barrel.”
“Yeah if you don’t mind.” Apparently she could rest easier in the back knowing the minnows were busy eating the mosquito larvae.
And so I began this day carefully taking my round self down the broken steps to the pond, crossing the dam to the spillway, where the minnows and tadpoles and snakes and turtles live. It was cool and lovely and it occurred to me that without a woman’s peculiar anxieties and household cares, I would not be here. Without my willingness to be sent, she would’ve had to suffer in her worries and the mosquitos might have taken over the world.
My life is small and I move sometimes according to my own desires, but often according to the desires of other people. This is true for you as well. We are all members of one another. This is an obvious blessing sometimes, but it can also be frustrating and painful. I guess a big choice we have in this life is how graciously and contentedly we will fill our place and if we will do it with love and forbearance or not.
I have been sitting here too long. These raspberries will be come and gone by the time I’ve thought through these things and the baby is pushing against the confinement of his place. Soon there will be more freedom for this child, and more anxiety for us. There will be rules and expectations and dangers and lessons. In time (let me say it while I can) there will be freedom to go. Freedom to go free and blessed, but there will be the freedom also to stay and the freedom to come back home, though they’ve gone a thousand miles.