Sunday, December 21, 2008

All I Need To Know

In December there's usually not a lot of daylight left over Sandhill when I get home, but last Friday I got there earlier than usual and was able to see the rather pitiful state into which the backyard had fallen.

There was a lone and empty hummingbird feeder dangling from one shepherd's hook and an overgrown hanging basket of mint from another. The dandelions that I had so energetically pulled up by the roots and left to dry in the unseasonable warmth the previous weekend had become piles of slimy green mush in the week's rain. It was all a stark and embarrassing contrast to the bright and festive inside where the tree stood so humbly regal in the corner of the living room and candles stood like posted guards on all the tabletops.

I'd gotten most of the dead mint stems plucked and had started on the dandelion piles when I got the oddest sensation that someone had just tapped me on the shoulder. I stood up quickly and turned to see a what looked like a huge egg yolk rising slowly, as on a hydraulic lift of some kind, over the horizon. With the perspective of a couple hundred yards the bright yellow bulb seemed to stretch the full depth of the tree line that marks the edge of the farm and it felt almost as though the rising had a pulse, that the gravitational pull that creates the tides was reaching far inland to draw me farther out into the wake.

I've been a full-moon watcher for years now. Each one makes me melancholy for all the ones I missed before I started acknowledging the wonder and I am always enraptured by the liquid silver light that spills out over the landscape.

But this one was different. This full moon, at the end of the year, just before Christmas, had something to say and, in order to make itself heard over the din, it had come nearly 19,000 miles closer than usual. When something, or somebody, goes to that much trouble to get my attention I tend to drop what I'm doing and listen.

So I stopped. Got still. Took a deep breath. Listened to the moon.

Funny thing: The voice I heard was remarkably like my own and the words were familiar ones. "You know all you need to know."

For someone whose college major focused on popular culture and current events, I am remarkably uninformed these days. I don't watch CNN or Fox News. I don't have a blackberry and learned to text only because it is my niece Kate's preferred form of communication. I have two friends who save their People magazines for me so that when I visit for the weekend I can at least familiarize myself with what passes for celebrity these days and not go out in public sounding foolish by asking questions like, "Who is Lindsay Lohan?"

But I know all I need to know.

I know that truth will always win out. I know that patience, especially the kind that is tinged with pain, is both the result of and the source of strength. I know that the only real power I have is the power to choose.

I know that the dearest and deepest attachments are the ones that cannot be explained. I know that silence is a language too few people speak. And I know that Christmas, like the moon, has a message.

And all we have to do is listen.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Flying Blind

This time of year, between about seven-thirty and eight in the morning, there is a moment when, coming around the big curve on Adabelle Road, you get blinded by the sunlight. Blinded by a flash so brilliant that it takes your breath away.

And in that moment, that half-second of total lack of vision, there is absolutely nothing to do but trust – trust your muscle memory from 35 years of navigating that same curve and trust any oncoming drivers to stay on their side of the road.

It's a scary thing, trust.

One bright summer Sunday Jason finally made good on his promise to take me out on his sailboat, a little Hobie. We pushed off from East Beach on Saint Simons into the cool turquoise water and Jason began maneuvering the ropes and sails in short quick movements while I sat idly on the tight canvas.

I had my back to the ocean, watching the bright dots of people stretched out along the beach. I could feel the shallow waves bumping underneath us as we moved away from shore.

We'd gotten no farther than the sandbar when I felt the boat rise suddenly on a building wave. "Hold on!" Jason screamed and I reached out to grab, I think, the mast as the rear of the boat rose straight into the air.

"Let go!" he screamed almost immediately and I opened my fists as I felt myself being thrown into the water headfirst.I came up gasping, looking around for the boat and for Jason. The wave that had catapulted the boat head over heels was long gone, spread smoothly out onto the beach like cake icing.

We managed to wrestle the boat back upright and, still trying to catch our breaths, paddled back to shore while Jason explained that had I not let go, had I not responded to his command without thought, I would have taken a blow to my head with the boom, a blow that – most likely – would have left me unconscious and, quite possibly, drowned.

All very dramatic.

Only later, after we'd told the story three or four times – with appropriate embellishment, of course – to the folks on the beach who'd been able to do nothing except watch as the little Hobie "turtled" and threw us into the air, did I fully understand the extent of the danger we'd encountered only a few yards from shore and in chest-high water.

Just a few days ago, in the midst of a conversation that I'd not really wanted to have, the person to whom I was talking responded to my long, drawn-out, far-more-intense-than-I'd-intended diatribe, with a softly-spoken two words: Trust me.

I didn't know at that moment whether I could or not. Didn't know if I even wanted to. And I remembered, for what at the time seemed no reason at all, that day on the Hobie. That day when, in response to "Hold on!" and "Let go!" (Interestingly enough, also two words.), I had done exactly as I was told without having any idea why.

I didn't have time to think about whether it was a good idea. Didn't know enough about sailing to determine on my own whether I stood a better chance one way or the other. I just knew Jason.

That's all trust is, really. Acting in response to what you know about the person, not the situation. It's what throws a baby off the counter into her father's arms. It's what sends the underdog back onto the field from the coach's huddle. It's what threw me off that sailboat and into the ocean. The father, the coach, the friend.

Trust me, the voice on the telephone repeated. And I found myself answering, I do.

Copyright 2008