Sticks & stones

My son has a growing collection of twigs and rocks and dead flowers littering our home.

I stepped on a crow feather this morning on my way to the coffee maker and I am writing this while looking at a piece of tree bark he tearfully told me he could not live without.

He is Thoreau, and our living room has become the woods.

His nature-collecting ways are making me crazy. Do we really need 17 rocks on the bookcase, when one feels plenty?

But yesterday—after a disorientating day—as I pulled our garbage cans to the street, I stopped for a moment to inspect a little pile of rocks by the garage door. And, for the first time all day, I could feel the air, its warmth nearly drained from the summer we’ve just survived. My eye caught the remaining red dahlias, rimmed with brown, that persisted through the heat, and I could hear the call of one final bird before the sun set, probably pleading with her babies to please, oh, please, go to sleep.

I was transported out of my head.

Each element was so supremely beautiful in its own odd way that all of the lists and negotiations and failed conversations of my day faded.

This is an unknown season, as I think most are if I am willing to be honest. One step leads not to the conclusion I expected but to the next curious step to take. A journey that is taking me through humbling terrain. I am wandering in the best sense of the word, finding myself being asked to loosen my need to control every outcome. To not be needed or accomplished or any of the other self-important trinkets I like to collect to show my worth.

What if you just listened today instead of had an answer?

What if you let so-and-so be mad at you without holding it against her?

Could you do it?

These are the type of questions I keep hearing, as I venture deeper into the wilds of grace. And the answers do not come in words they come in surrenders, small and monumental like little piles of sticks and stones along my path. Mounds small enough that they are invisible to anyone but me, and yet precious enough that at the close of my days here on earth—as I survey the landscape of my life—I hope I will see fields of these offertory piles.

I suppose, then, that I am grateful for the pieces of earth my boy loves, for the weight and texture of each and the way they represent the hidden things we hold and—if we are brave enough—lay down. The curved lines of time hidden within each tree’s trunk, the brevity of a dandelion’s bloom, the rigid edge of a stick that grows brittle with age. Ordinary things full of spiraling mystery to behold and to release.

Behold and release.

Amen.

CLAIRE CAREY DEERING believes less is more, in writing and in life.

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