I bought a new snake to clean out my drain. After waging an epic battle against the monstrous clog, I emerged triumphant. Then, bolstered by the pride of my victory, I tackled all of the nagging backups elsewhere: the half-bathroom, the girls’ sink and tub. Hair, paper,plastic and grease were vanquished into the abyss of the garbage dumpster or flushed to the sewage pond by cool, fresh water that ran clear and plentiful.
I sat back on my heels and was satisfied. I delegated the tasks of cleaning the sinks and tub to the girls, while I sewed up the back of Dagne’s favorite stuffed animal, a horse named Cookies, who has definitely risen to the beloved, Velveteen Rabbit status of REAL by now. Whenever the time comes for Cookies to be tossed into the garbage heap, she’ll find herself galloping on the green slopes of Elysian fields, gazing at Dagne, the girl who made her real.
We read aloud tonight, about Joseph and the coat of many colors; about Rome and Hannibal, Caesar and the senate, Octavian and the doomed Marc Antony and Cleopatra; about George Muller and his simple faith in God to take care of him; about a boy who was blinded by a firecracker and must learn to care for himself.
Then, I sent the girls to bathe in their new clean tub and wandered upstairs, lost and vaguely unsettled, and knelt to pray. I tried to do my routine: The Lord’s Prayer and then stairstep through the family, but it was no good. I couldn’t concentrate. I sat back and gave up for the moment, walked to the window and opened it to feel the freshness of the air.
If prayer is a conversation between God and me, I sure do a lot of talking.
I removed my shoes and pulled the clips from my hair, symbols of work for me. I grabbed a blanket, walked out the front door, and crawled into the hammock. I rested and listened. Male crickets rubbed their wings together, hoping to attract a female. Further down near the water, the distant roaring of male frogs trying to do the same thing filled the background. Mating, or the hope of it, made the air ring. A televised voice from a neighbor’s house spoke in a virtual world, a farce, an emptiness, a hypocrite in the theater of life. The tips of the juniper trees danced with the wind and the first star broke through the layers of the atmosphere to whisper a message. Venus rose from her blue waters, renewed in beauty and attended by the Graces, but I couldn’t see her because she was shrouded in clouds.
The old problems still plagued the corners of my mind but I pressed them to the edges to make room for better things. I received the love of my husband and daughter far away. I released the tension from my shoulders and the back of my head and let it slip through the threads of the hammock, through the cracks of the deck, and seep into the ground. I relished the moments with my daughters while I read books to them– heads leaned against me, toes wriggling underneath me or legs thrown across me, gestures of intimacy, signs of comfortable closeness.
I watched and I listened. I breathed in. I breathed out.
Peace is not the absence of striving and struggle. There are other words for that. Serenity, perhaps. Tranquility. Peace is the calm one experiences within the struggle. It hints of courage. And faith. A releasing when longing to grasp. A gracious reception of sorrow or suffering when wanting to shut the door upon them. A recognition of a lesson to be learned.