31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Touch the Sky

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The mornings are dark and trimmed with frost of late. On Tuesday I stood out back and watched my breath tendril up into the slow approaching dawn. The Hunter’s moon was on the wane, but still gave the appearance of being full and I could smell the light slowly undoing the night. The wind is beginning to loosen the leaves a little more each day and the hillsides lush with color are beginning to undress. Yesterday at work, I spoke with a patient’s family member who had driven up from Lewisburg to visit.

“How are the leaves down there?” I asked.

With a sad smile she said, “They are gone.” Then she spoke to her loved one about the blazing glory the Maples made in the back yard.

Grief pooled at the corners of his eyes as she gave to him her word pictures. This is what the deep ones mourn—not the loss of limb or weakness of body, but the theft of time. They grieve the sudden pulling of their lives out from under them; how they must abandon all that gives joy to tend to their physical needs for a season.

I try to return these moments to them, point out the beauty available right here, right now. The pulse of life still beats strongly under the roof of the hospital. The losses they have suffered seem to tender their heart and open its door wide to all the losses over the course of life. A rare few recognize the gift in their tears—this drawing near to the holy, to the things that matter most.

I learn from their bravery, how best to view the moments of my days. In autumn, the longing looms large, just as C.S. Lewis said. I cry when I see the birds flock across the sky, the sudden lift of their wings birthing anew within me the awareness of my feet of clay—I am earthbound.

In my reading this morning, Diane Ackerman tells me, “One of the first words we think humans spoke, recorded in Indo-European as pleu, meant: It flies! It is an ancient longing.”

I long for flight of many kinds but mostly, I want to touch the sky, to scoop her blue in my cupped hands and carry it home. Is there a way to carry the sky inside of me? In his poem “Two Stranger Birds in Our Feathers,” Mahmoud Darwish says, “ … spread over me an endless blue wing … “

This is what I want too—to be lost in the ecstasy of a love so great I lose all sense of self but become one with earth and sky and sun and star. Overshadowed by mystery.

This is Love. This is Faith. I let these longings lead me deeper into the heart of God.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series.  I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. Don’t forget to stop by this post for a chance to win some signed copies of S.D. Smith’s children’s books. And stop by this post for a chance to win The Girlfriend’s Short Stack. 

Almost Empty

31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Unlocking Time

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This morning, the sky looks like a giant canvas of sand art—grainy clouds sweep across a blooming horizon and I rise before the sun. I set my alarm early, to do this writing thing, but my body would rather stay in bed, my mind is sleepy. It’s cold outside. I try not to think about my pepper plants as I stare out the window at the sinking moon. We’re supposed to have another warm spell this week. Hold on, little ones, I whisper against the glass.

Yesterday, we had new French doors installed in the back of our house, a project long overdue. I may have mentioned before, I don’t like to let go of things. As the workers carried our old doors away I had to fight the urge to ask them to leave them behind. Wouldn’t they make a nice rustic table? Maybe some kind of outdoor project, with flowering vines? But I know better. If left, the doors would languish in the garage with all the other left-behinds: old laminate flooring, boxes of tile, half-empty cans of paint, forgotten homebrew equipment, all the neglected bicycles, and the boys’ old radio flyer. No, best to let them go.

When we ordered our door, the salesman neglected to tell us we had to buy our own doorknob and dead bolt. As a placeholder, the installers put the old one back in—the one that never locked properly, the one with the ugly corroded brass. So, when Jeff came home from work, we went for a quick walk and then over to The Home Depot. Who knew there were so many different kinds of doorknobs? We found a set that seemed perfect and were getting ready to make our way to the register when the one other person in the doorknob aisle approached us.

“If you all want a secure lock, you should buy Schlage instead of that one.”

He pointed to the package he was holding. “I’m a locksmith. I just learned from a guy in the CIA that the lock you are holding can be picked in eleven seconds.”

Jeff and I looked at each other and moved over to the Schlage section. The man went on to give several pointers about secure locks and what we should purchase. “If it says ‘G1,’ that’s what you want. That’s the most secure.” We found our G1 Schlage knob and dead bolt set, thanked the man, and left.

It seemed like a stroke of luck to be in the aisle the same time as a locksmith evangelist. I couldn’t help feeling well cared for as we drove on home. But the thing I noticed most was how the entire interaction felt so … spacious. Before the almost-empty nest, these kinds of errands were always cutthroat, get in/get out kinds of things. No time to talk with a locksmith evangelist in the doorknob aisle. What’s more, they were usually a divide and conquer episode. Rarely would Jeff and I go together to purchase something like a doorknob.

As we drove home from The Home Depot and night began to fall softly over our little valley, I whispered a prayer of thanks for changing seasons. And the way time seems to expand in this almost-empty nest.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

Almost Empty

Playdates with God: Fireflies

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When we walk down to the creek now, the air is sweet with the scent of honeysuckle. The boys still have a few more days of school left but already the spinning earth whispers, freedom in our ears. Every day weighs heavy with anticipation.

We sit out back at dusk, toes touching under the table…letting the slow coming on of night drip cool into these last hours. The wind is whispering over the meadow, stirring bushes and bending low the trees. It skims my skin, lifting with it the remnants of a tired day and for a moment I think I’m dreaming. But then, he sees it too—from the Maple—this faint winking.

It’s the first fireflies of the season and this quiet return always creates a celebration in my heart. After the initial welcome, we sit still and enjoy the show.

Isn’t it something how everything old is new again and we can greet the familiar like royalty in those first moments of recognition? Each winking light lifts the heavy and my body remembers how these critters usher in the summer—the way the sun lingers longer on the hills, the steady music of the peepers, and the later bedtime as we chased the lights.

I sit and wiggle my toes over my man’s…think about the amazing way the world is designed…how the Almighty gives us seasons so we’ll remember the beauty that we so easily forget when we face it every day.

I look at him from under my lashes and the beauty of our life enters quiet into my heart, like the slow turning of the seasons on a dewy night in late spring.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: Promise

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In the long winter my body has forgotten. It has forgotten how to bend and stoop and open to the earth. It remembers only how to fold in upon itself, to become the sleeping seed, to curl up against the cold. But as the green shoots stir and reach up out of their slumber, the dust within me begins to awaken.

All day I pull weeds from the beds in my back yard where beauty is beginning to open her eyes. My ancient bones protest against this reunion, but—like a sister—I press on, letting her awaken gently, making room for the stretch and yawn. I take the flat-edged shovel and make the boundaries sharper, stir the soil on the brim of the beds, let my hands dig deep to break up clods of unyielding earth. I sift it all through my sieve-fingers.

I am not alone. There are many visitors. A hairy woodpecker raps on the trunk of the towering walnut tree. The robin’s song gives cheerful company. Earthworms wriggle and the wind lifts the meadow grasses. A tiny titmouse perches above me and admonishes me for how large and clumsy I am. I talk to him, try making the “pish”-ing sound to signal my good nature. He cocks his head to one side, curious. The sun falls soft over us and the smell of earth is a heady perfume and I am happy.

My body begins to remember.

There is still much work to do and I am reacquainted with ibuprofen but this is the song of spring. We have been preoccupied with a big decision and sleep gives way to worry but fresh air does much to treat this malady. At night I dream about church bells and robinsong and I awaken with the scent of earth in my nostrils and that feeling of excitement that something good will come soon.

The waking earth holds in her womb a promise. The slow awakening helps me remember.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us. **UPDATE: Friends, I had to close the linky due to a large number of inappropriate linkups. Please accept my sincere apologies if any of you, dear readers, inadvertently visited one of these inappropriate links. I’m going to have to think about what to do for our future playdates posts. In the meantime, please leave your link in the comments so our community may continue to visit. Again, I’m so, so sorry!

 

Laura Boggess

My West Virginia Morning: Seed Dreams

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This morning the light comes cloaked by clouds. Since the time change, I’ve been waiting for spring to settle in. Last night, when Jeff and I turned back down our street after a long walk—night falling all around us—the neighbor children ran bare-armed through their yard. In their fast-churning legs I found a memory of younger springs, the cool scent of night settling into skin and dew soaked grass between naked toes.

I am thinking about planting. My raised beds sleep, dream of wrapping arms around leafy greens and plump fruit. The heart swells with love at the thought. Isn’t every act of hospitality an act of love? When I feed the earth with seeds I feel the gratitude of the soil. What better way to give than to cultivate the earth? This week at the dinner table, I told my boys of my dreams of hospitality—to welcome strangers in our home and set the table with love and good conversation. They stared at me wide-eyed, for we’ve always been an insular family. It’s a hard thing, to shift the gaze outward after so many years of thinking about the next need. But more and more I hear God calling me to this. Shift your eyes, Laura, he says. Plant the seeds. I don’t mind the planting so much as the time it takes to nurture; the tending takes a gentle discipline.

But I have always learned best by doing, so I offer up my heart like soft clay. I don’t know what the kiln will yield. But this surrender feels like running through the liquid air of a soft spring evening, bare-armed and shoeless.

Wild and full of hope.