In February there was a week of strange weather and firemen putting out grass fires down the road from my son’s daycare with a practiced ease. The warmth was a far cry from the weather of that February the year my husband died, as if to serve as another reminder of just how much my world had changed in his absence. Almost more smoke than flame, both fires were put out with little fanfare, and in the short time it took me to run into the daycare to get my child and come back out, all the trucks had driven away.
The day after the fire, the scorched, grass-less patches were empty, devoid of both watchers and tenders. No less damaged and marked than the day before, just nearly unnoticed now, and months from then, if covered in the grass of new growth, I knew no one would remember the precise spot the fire had occurred. After all, it is the crisis that generally draws the eyes, not its aftermath. Yet there is nothing easy about new growth. All that work below the soil and there are things that will never take root, seeds that will never sprout, some that will stunt their way through, and still others that will fail to bloom.
I am good in a crisis. I’ve had enough practice. I too know how to put out the small fires, bandage the wounds, to show up to the funerals, go to the job, care for my child. I know who to call and how to feed them, how to put on the clothes and wipe the eyes. How to drive while weeping. How to drive while so empty you wish you still had anything left to weep. And because I am good in a crisis, I don’t need people in my life who only show up on my worst days. Truth is, I know how to handle those days just fine. It’s the ten p.m.’s on a Thursday when the house is quiet except for the laundry machine, the six p.m.’s after dinner, the eight a.m.’s on a workday when I want to drive the two miles to the coffee shop so someone will smile at me, the Sunday afternoons when I want to go for a walk or make a meal in a kitchen or just hear another voice that are hard for me. It is the ordinary that is hard.
And so, what I want, what I need, are those who show up in the aftermath. Who are there to watch me, week after week, slip from my damaged self and become something new.
After all, there is nothing simple about sprouting. Below the surface, a seed or self violently splits, dives some things downward, other things up. It seeks to build roots, deep enough to support all that it wishes to grow. And what those roots seek, more than anything else? Something to hold onto. Something to hold.
(painting by JenniferWalton: http://jenniferwalton.com/Index-Forest-Fires.html)