Quick now, here, now, always–

We end up at the lake. Many morning or evening walks or spontaneous afternoon drives end at the beach for a quick swim, a snack, a curious finger in the water to see just how cold it’s become.

We return to it as if we’re looking for something we lost, as if repetition will mean redemption.

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I am thinking of returning. We come back here often, this stretch of beach. We have lived in this apartment longer than we’ve lived anywhere. We have the same jobs, the same family nearby, go to a church. I am more tethered to a place, to people, than I have been.

I have loved the solace of anonymity. I have loved new places, exploration, adventure. I have craved them. I have loved to be somewhere where little is expected of me, where I am not needed.

I am learning a new lesson, one of arriving again and again at the same destination, of turning around and once more opening my eyes to sameness, to the beauty of renewal. All things, every day, new. I am learning the importance of returning to an upturned face or lifting my own.

I was thinking of these things and read Lewis and his exploration of contemplation and enjoyment, looking at or looking along. I have looked at for a long while and enjoyed the impersonal space of observation. But now I am more often immersed, inhabiting, looking along the beam of light.


We walk the narrow path down the beach, grasshoppers leaping in and out of the grasses. I am carrying Jack in the car seat.
We are down by the water – it is so cold now even though it’s only early September. I wade in, take a deep breath, jump in. It is so much easier than it used to be. Jack flails delightedly from his car seat on the shore, beaming as I reemerge.

I feel guilty for doing something for the pure enjoyment of it. If the doing is its own reward, why spend time on it?
Writing is one such thing. It is an audacious thing. Sometimes even reading seems audacious. Who am I to spend my time in these ways? To clean a house, perhaps to take a walk, to make food, these things are sensible. Relaxing is also acceptable, and occasional laziness is forgivable. But to write? Nothing will come of it. Audacity is shameful.

Sometimes spending time with Jack is pure enjoyment. I should be cataloging it, should be photographing it to share. How many hundreds, thousands of minutes did we have just the two of us that I have no record of? How many thousands of moments have I watched him, not directed or instructed but observed, enjoyed quietly?

The morning swim is its own reward. I have nothing to show for myself. Writing is its own reward. Worse than nothing, I have something to show but it is not yet right. Being with Jack means I have produced no tangible expression for the passing of time in a day, only the burden of a fading collection of moments I’ve witnessed.


He is hungry at half-past five in the morning. I have a headache. I go in to feed him. He is so big, soft. His body curls, settles.

I cannot go back to sleep, though I lay down and try. The sun is bright coming through the window and I’m suddenly glad I moved the books into our bedroom because for a moment, looking at them, I feel surrounded. Is it strange to say I feel protected? As if they were a number of friends who would do battle for me.

But I cannot sleep and I keep thinking of the beach. I put on my swimsuit and grab a towel and drive down, a craving for the grip of the waves. The sun is already high, high, the day this far gone, the distance from the sun to the lake.

The water is cold. I love the cold because it is simple, my mind uncluttered. It is a quick swim, the sun is dazzling. This moment is clarity, it is pure light. I run out of the water and instantly feel warm, all the blood moving to the surface of my skin. I am an ember. I am alone.


Oh, Sandman

I want to reach out when he is sleeping, touch the lines on his face. I am comforted by his breathing next to me, his peace. I love the morning light moving across his body – wrapped in blankets, a corner tugged over his eyes against the sun. He is so removed. I want to rest my hand on his chest and feel his breath, his heartbeat.

And: I want to reach out when he is sleeping, pull his tiny body close. He is so heavy, so little.  He is so removed. There is a dim light in the nursery, a single beam across the crib. He would chase it if he was awake – he loves to move into the light.
I want to rest my hand on his back and feel his breath, his heartbeat. We talk about him when he is asleep. “Let’s wake him up,” one of us will say. “I miss him.”

It is all a miracle, for I have never loved warm bodies close to me. My sister would fall asleep on my shoulder, my lap, and I would stay awake thinking about how awful it was to not move. My body would fight it. I did not ever feel the desire to curl up next to someone, I only felt the desire to desire it.

Already I say, “When he was a baby…” Already I can remember a time before now. Some days I turn to Jeff and say “He seems older today.” In his face, there is more knowing. He joins us, day by day, in our laughter or words or gestures. He joins the world, certain, inhabited.

I remember when he was a baby and he’d sleep on my chest, or Jeff’s, he’d sleep in our arms. He would fall asleep – I mean to fall the way he fell into us, all his weight and trust and knowledge was in our warmth and breath. I mean to fall the way the burden of him would nearly crush me in the first few days after he was born, my back still so sore from the strain of bringing him here to my chest. Heartbeat to heartbeat to heartbeat we are only used to this.

They sleep and wake a little older. It is banal, unfair, and I want only to grab hold of them as they move from day to day.