I am never going to get it Right.
What I know:
I hunger to connect. With the land, with people. Is there a different way to visit another universe?
I hunger for wildness.
And so I pause to walk the length of my gravel driveway – 765 feet roundtrip, 7-12 times per day.
A grass snake tastes the air with its lemony tongue.
I see a hickory horned devil appearing from the forest edge.
One night, a bobcat cries not far from the woodshed.
On any given walk, I am met by fiery searchers, oak gall wasp nurseries, a cornucopia of fungi, muscadines just out of reach.
I pause to make bread. “Do you think Paul Hollywood is happy,” I ask Dennis.
“He’s had his share of bad bakes. I’m sure he’s fine.”
I pause to stare. To tree gaze. A medical condition makes it difficult for me to move fast, squat, or rise quickly. My body demands slow and careful movement. For years, I thought a weak mind led me to near-collapse during any sort of aerobic activity. Only recently did I learn that low blood pressure, vertigo, and an occasional erratic heart are the source. And so I pause often. This is my prayer life.
I pause for ants deconstructing luna moth wings
For coyote and deer scat
For box turtles emerging from vines
Even for walking sticks mating on the side of the house
For katydids occupying a cup I left outside
For congregations of daddy long legs on a window screen
For wheel bugs on the deck
Cloaks and swallowtails floating about
Young copperheads darting out of view
Orb weavers over my front door
Salamander eggs in the pond
Any skink really
Toads of all sizes
And so on…
I pause to watch dumb thrillers on Lifetime and relish banter with Dennis.
I pause for tracks in the mud, zigzagging game trails, for vultures owning the air above our land.
I pause for weather reports and esoteric facts from my father. I pause for my mother. For Dennis’s children.
I pause for Home Movies with Alison Roman. For crunchy, savory cucumbers and crushed olives. For toasted fennel anchovy pecan date sauce drizzled over smashed potatoes.
I pause to photograph the unexpected, the decaying, the odd wriggles. I pause for art supplies and our lichened bluffs.
I am entering menopause, which means the fatigue of the past year isn’t just pandemic ripple effects. I pause to cry without reason. To cry because I know myself and do not know myself. Because of questions and because of the love that sometimes flows from an unknown origin.
One morning, tears in his eyes, Dennis tells me, “We began our marriage in that ambulance. Our bond formed in a Seattle ICU.”
I pause to bathe and wonder how long water will let me take abundance for granted as Dennis designs an outdoor shower I can not wait to use.
I pause for tick checks and possible lumps below my skin.
We pause on Sunday morning for the Eucharist in our living room. Really, it’s Dennis’s suggestion. I found a small loaf of no-knead bread cooling that morning. “Can I eat that,” I ask.
“Well, I made it for the Eucharist.”
“Oh,” I sigh, “let’s do church then.” I light a candle. Our altar is a garden table. A glass of wine. The bread, still wafting.
“Is it bad that I’m only participating because I’m hungry and I want to eat that bread?”
“That is the best reason,” he responds.
Dennis rests the stole on his shoulders. He wears a Sho-Bud t-shirt streaked in flour and a pair of plaid boxer shorts. His hair is wild. Jesus declares that he is the Bread of Life. My mouth waters. I want that bread. Instead of a homily, we reflect on Eben Alexander’s book we’ve begun together. “I need evidence,” I had said earlier in the morning. And finally, Communion, and the bread, so delicious, I moan as I devour the Body of Christ. We bake more in the afternoon.
I pause to doubt and question nearly everything. I sometimes pause for ancient Christian prayers, and only because there’s a reminder alarm on my Echo that shouts something about waking up and a sharp needle coming at me. Sometimes I pause for night time prayers. More often, Dennis tells me he will pray these prayers for me.
I pause to make lists: gratitude, to-dos, first sentences, southern phrases, dreams, friends to write, friends who have died, gifts to send. I find old lists on my phone, my desk, pockets, scraps tucked inside books.
I pause for 3 Girls, 1 Keith as I walk through the woods. For storied audiobooks rooted in Montana, rural England, and the Deep South. I now see literature in the trees – whole sections of Middlemarch on a champion yellow pine. I pause for magazine recipes and corny jokes.
I pause to turn the hose on for lizards who make their home near our porch. I point the nozzle toward the sky and adjust the angle as mist envelopes all of us. I walk until my clothes fill with air.
I pause for an old oak and savor letters from friends far away. I pause for phone chats with nieces and nephews.
I pause to worry and wonder how long worry will claw at me – how long I will wrestle with Too Much and Not Enough. I walk just before sunset, and coyote yips quicken my pace. I pause to floss after dinner and lightly brush my teeth for fifteen seconds on each section.
As I fall asleep, I fret with what Is and what Is Not, and I pause on the alphabet, each letter the beginning of a culinary word.
And so on…
I pause for the news and try not to crack. I rise and pause for coffee with Dennis. For his tales ever unfolding. For the cutting boards oiled weekly. For Cherokee Purple tomatoes fuller each day.
I pause for watermelon and pie, beans and cornbread, garlic and ginger. For Cajun music in the kitchen.
I pause for the garbage can at the end of the drive. For the compost bin and the UPS man.
I pause to compose shitty first drafts. To write with friends. To explore ecotones of stories, vulnerability, bone, and laughter. I pause to read Cheever and Chekov. To wonder when I will next people-watch in an airport or about the prayer life of caterpillars. I do not know if my pauses are enough on this mountain edge. I pause and turn toward the plants in need of water.