A couple hours ago, I had that 8:30 pm moment I’ve watched on the horizon for the last month. I sat on the porch. I didn’t bring anything to write with or a book to read. At first, I just sat, and then I just listened. The birds in the tree to my right had a lot to say to each other tonight. One bird would call the loudest, 4 whistling curls, then pause, then 4 whistling curls. I thought it was his pattern at first, but then he stopped one short at 3 oscillating calls outward. A bird from the tree to my left seemed to respond to him with a few matching sounds. I wish I understood their conversation.
The ground in front of me was dirt not long ago. When we walked into the house just 5 months ago, we’d bring in dusty brown-red dirt that could only be swept with a broom and then wiped with a damp paper towel. Now the ground has grass on it from seeds we planted and tended from infancy. In our landscaping feats, we have raked up some of the baby grass in place for decorative mulch at the front of the house. While I was scraping the grass down and out, I felt like this action was a sacrilege to its recent birth. Although this section with new plants looks more polished now, underneath the fresh black mulch are sprigs of grass that grow up sharp. Each sprig has found its place in that dirt; therefore, there are sporadic, declarative intervals of grass popping up from underneath– disrupting the new look, yes, but ideating natural strength.
In front of me, the kids have escaped their beds and are running around with pajamas on and wet hair in the dark. They are chasing fireflies they saw from their bedroom window. In unison, they came out running with a blue plastic container from my cabinet and a sheet of white paper—kids inventive contraptions. I told them can chase the fireflies and hold them for a bit, but they have to be gentle and let them go and glow. Layla has made a bed of grass for them and is saying, “come here, little fly. Don’t be scared. I just want to see you and then let you go.” The flies are putting on a show for her, it looks from here. It doesn’t matter that these lightning bugs may light up as a signal to predators or that they may be looking for some bug romance; they light naturally, and we look at them with dazzle and wonder.
At graduation this year, I had the good fortune of hugging my favorite graduates on stage. Something about this year satisfied me more than ever. Perhaps it was venturing into something new like the literary magazine class or getting recognized in a significant way, or maybe it was magnetizing to what my friend calls “the circle” of people at work. Maybe it’s where I’m at in life now, whatever that means. Either way, when I walked off the stage at graduation and surprising fireworks erupted for excited families, I recognized how often I’ve been part of this ceremony, but I haven’t felt this way about it before. Something inside me has settled.
One friend at work reminded me of how we live so much of our life in increments, 4-year high school, 4-year university, 1-year engagement, 3-year grad school, 10-year marriage, 10-year career. The increments are getting naturally longer and no longer accompanied with a stage and certificate. Moving into my house felt like this long-awaited giant step, like I couldn’t act on any ideal more grandiose than that until it happened. Now, I’m here, and I’m able to look out at the next thing, but this next thing doesn’t come in the form of increments. It’s not a 9-month pregnancy, and it’s not a distinct goal. It’s a feeling that has some patience behind it, both looking out and wondering what the new stage is, and looking within and wondering what I’m capable of next. It’s both the recognition that this is a golden stage and that this is the forming of something new.
What it’s not is the foozling about of ten years ago when I looked straight to the inevitable stages that come after marriage. I’m in that place of it now. Figuratively and not, I’ve come inside and I’m sitting at the desk. When Tally and I walked into this bare-bones house; I told her to watch her step because there were nails poking out from the raw-wood walls ripped floors. There was no electricity, so we used our phone lights to look out into the dark and picture this very image I sit in right now. Right now, sitting at this desk, I feel I’m the pause between grateful and next.
I’ve never sat still, really. I’ve always “kept myself busy,” as my dad likes to call it. Even on a day where I’m sick and vow to rest and do nothing, I’ll manage to finish all the laundry and cook a warm dinner so that my day feels earned. More than that, I’m not the octopus who trails her arms behind her, mine tend to find somewhere to go. I used to feel guilty about it, especially when the means to the end were out of my control. But I think I’m recognizing this tendency is just a part of me like the way my grandfather always buys ten of everything (you could find enough butter in the freezer and paper towels in the closet to help a small village), or the way my mom will always err on the side of caution.
It’s recognizing our patterns that help us figure out who we are, and if we pause long enough and porch-listen inside of our own chatter, we may be able to catch it, that thing distinct and predictable in us, and we can claim it before it comfortably disappears back into the world, flickering on an invisible string swaying incautiously in a warm field.