“ Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above?”— from the song, “Landslide,” written by Stevie Nicks
“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple . . .”— from the poem, “Warning,” written by Jenny Joseph
“It’s been a good life,” he said as he leaned in kissed me.
Inquisitively, I gazed at John, my husband, now of 30 years.
“What are you thinking? What prompted that comment?”
“Just thinkin’,” was all he said.
“Well I’ve been afraid of changing . . .”
Had he been reading my mind from earlier in the day, or were we both wrestling with an underbelly of life’s newest current. Hours prior, I had been completing routine chores around our home. My mind wanted to drift with the undertow of thoughts awash in my head, but instead, Stevie Nicks’ song, “Landslide,” became a sort of cerebral soundtrack on repeat, with an odd intermittent interruption of the famous first line of the poem, “Warning.” I began to wonder if this random monopoly of my mental loop was worth further mental investigation. Of course, as a yoga teacher, I recognize that, like leaves on a tree, thoughts come and go, and aren’t necessarily reflective of reality. However, I have also learned that there are times when seemingly arbitrary thoughts are whisperings of my soul’s search for a greater understanding of a deep seeded emotion trying to surface like a bubble rising to the top of a carbonated beverage.
“Cause I’ve built my life around you . . .”
I recalled a last minute, hastily planned, vacation with John, and Madelyn, our daughter. It was the first of August, and we decided to travel to the four-wheel drive beach of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We stayed in a tiny house near the edge of the Virginia border. There was no ocean view from the vacation rental, but the cabin was cozy, inexpensive, and perfect for the three of us. We would load up our 4-wheel drive vehicle with our beach gear: three boogie boards, towels, sunscreen, and chairs, and drive to and from the beach—usually twice per day.
“But time makes you bolder . . .”
This trip was made special by the fact that John, Maddie, and I spent most of the days boogie boarding together on the rough OBX tide. Of course, the fact that the temperatures hovered near 100 degrees daily encouraged us to get in, and remain in, the ocean. Once our vehicle was parked on the beach, and beach chairs placed in front of the open hatch, we’d awkwardly push, pull, work our way past the low breaking waves, boogie boards in hand. Together, we’d catch a good wave, and ride it to shore, laughing hysterically, at the person whose board had been flipped–usually me! Then, without really gazing at the shoreline, we’d push, pull, work our way back out to those bigger waves. Eventually though, one of us would notice that one of OBX’s famous undertows had sent us on a northward drift from our starting point. We’d stand calf deep in the water, just feeling the edge of tide’s pull, and marvel at the great distance we had drifted, and yet we had not realized it until that very moment.
Images from Maddie’s current bedroom–a mix of childhood favorites, stuffed with memorabilia from elementary, middle, and high school as well as her now former school, Bethany College.
I paused mid-stride in my house hallway. Oh my heavens that was it! I was standing calf-deep in the waves of my life, my boogie board has just been flipped, and only now do I realize that the undertow that is also life, and its constant ebb and flow of changes, has been carrying me along with waves–waves of joy, waves of love, waves of wonder, waves of struggle, waves of sorrow, waves of regret, waves of . . .well, time. And, now, as I catch a glimpse of the shoreline, I see that I have drifted into a new phase of life.
One night, Maddie jokingly prayed for a snow day, then she placed a spoon under her pillow for added security; the next day her prayers came true. She and I had played in snow all day, and when we came inside, I made her purple snow cream. Later, we painted our toes in front of the fire that John built.
“Even children get older . . .”
I mentally tick-off the inventory of recent changes. Maddie is now changing universities, transferring to Marshall, and she is switching from a Biochemistry/Chemistry major with a minor in Art to a Visual Arts major with a minor in chemistry. She is moving out of our family home and into a rental. Even now, as she prepares for the move, her bedroom is often empty for long spans of time as she stretches her newly found wings of adulthood.
Meanwhile, our house is in the flux of a gradual remodel as John and I prepare for the next phase of our life. This phase will ultimately mean we, too, will leave this house, our home, for another. How much longer will we be here? One, two, three more years? There is no definitive answer.
“And, I’m gettin’ older, too . . .”
Furthermore, John and find ourselves in new roles as more and more of our family members have passed, moved away, and/or changed in ways we could have never predicted when we first married. Divorce, death, disease, and departures, of one sort or the other, seem to occur with more frequency than we care to admit. We are no longer defined by our daughter’s schedule, but by new roles, for which we feel, at times, ill prepared. Just as when we first arrived home from the hospital as proud new parents, but without a parenting manual, neither is there a manual for, well, AARP living, for which we are now official members—though not retired.
Even though he wasn’t a human member of the family, saying good-bye to our Rusty-boy truly broke our hearts.
“Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?”
When I was younger, I knew, with a fair amount of predictability, that junior high would be followed by high school, which would be followed by college, which would be followed by a career. Later, I felt confident, that in all likelihood, a Masters degree would be followed by more educational hours, that marriage would be followed by at least one child, which would, of course, be followed by parenting. Then, as I parented alongside John, we were keenly aware that one developmental stage would follow another, and so on and so forth; but, not this–not this sea of unknowing, this sea of no control (As if I ever had control?).
“Can I handle the seasons of my life?”
John’s parents are now gone. My parents are older. Maddie is leaving home. We will, one day, leave this home too—both literally and metaphorically. How long will our careers continue? Where will we live? What paths will Maddie take? How long before the next change? What does the future hold? How much longer will the newspaper continue to publish my words? Will I ever write a book, or will I continue to express myself creatively through other written means, such as my website? Does this writing help anyone other than me, or is it a selfish pursuit? How much longer will I have my loved ones and friends? For heaven’s sake, when shall I wear purple? And, in the end, will my life have mattered? Will I have mattered to my parents, my siblings, my husband, my in-laws, my daughter, my friends, my colleagues, my students, to anyone at all?
I hope so.
“Ah, take my love . . . And, if you see my reflection in the snow covered hill
Well, the landslide will bring it down.”