Thursday, December 15, 2011

Twilight at Stow Lake

Granted the gift of time, I have the good sense to go to Stow Lake at twilight time. Find a spot of sun and lean against a log and just sit quietly in the dying rays of the light. Across from me, two tall cypress trees and the setting sun that rests on their branches, its ball of brightness suspended in the air and then reflected yet again in the water. Five geese soar past the one, three ducks swim through the other, and all become, for one brief moment, shimmering light in motion. A woman walks by with her dog and comments, “This is the life, eh?”

I watch it all as a question: When shall I leave my life? I mean the one spent with children in the sacred chapel of my school music room. I’m listening hard for an answer, but don’t know in which language it will appear. Don’t know which part of the body will decide. The ear that can’t easily hear what kids are saying amidst the ambient xylophone noise? The back that can’t lift the bass xylophone without risk? The nerves that are exhausted from kids who are explosive? The head that is counting the years and the finances and treating it all as a math problem? Or the heart, that at the moment is breaking watching the hungry termites feed on the supporting posts I helped place so carefully. Okay, I know they must eat, but there’s plenty of scrap wood elsewhere. How tragic it would be to leave in bitterness and yet, neither should I stay in stubbornness.

The sun and the cypress and the water are speaking and I lean in to listen. Who will help me translate? One small image appears. The sun doesn’t will itself to set, in fact, doesn’t move at all. It just keeps its light burning and its gaze constant while the earth turns away from it. “Stay steady,” it says. “Let the world turn as it will. Don’t take it personally when it looks away and gives you the cold shoulder. Keep constant and it will turn back and be grateful for the warmth.”

As good an answer as any. So I’ll return to the kids in a few weeks and keep listening for the announcement. And if it doesn’t come, I suppose I’ll just keep on until my last breath, perhaps at the end of the 11th verse of The Frozen Logger, or the Thumpity Thump Thump of Frosty the Snowman

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