Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The weary world

"Holy Family at Rest" by Anna Hyatt Huntington

"Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God?"

The minute I scanned the daily scripture readings for December 20—my assigned material for my church's daily Advent reflection series—this line from Isaiah 7 seared my eyeballs. Weary. Weary. Weary. The verb tolled like a solemn bell in my heart. To weary is to suffer fatigue. To feel dispirited. To face tedium or ennui. To become tired. To grow tired of.

My weariness has compounded since last Advent. My spikes of massive joy in the past year (welcoming my second child, signing a book deal) were made more pronounced by the constant undercurrent of stress, boredom, and fear. I would have celebrated these occasions regardless, but in the context of pandemic, my celebrations assumed a note of desperation: live it up now before you can't. Indeed, I am tired and tired of.

So deeply did the word "weary" strike me that I chose to spend my whole reflection on the theme, represented by a sculpture I encountered three years ago at the National Shrine. And because a new variant is surging, because daycare is closed two extra days, because the kids' presents aren't wrapped ... because I am weary ... I share it with you here in the event the word tolls in your heart, too.

Tucked within the crypt level of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a modest bronze sculpture titled “Holy Family at Rest.” But “at rest” is too mild a term for the bone-deep exhaustion it portrays of the family fleeing Egypt. Joseph sits slumped over his staff; Mary and baby Jesus flop against the wall; even their donkey is curled up, fast asleep.

During this Advent season, as my spouse and I work full-time remote jobs, tend to our new infant, potty train our opinionated toddler, and navigate the ongoing stress of pandemic, I find myself returning often to this image in prayer. Like the Holy Family, we too are weary. We are running on empty. We are alone and bewildered, always questioning our next step, never sitting still, constantly desiring a full eight hours of restorative sleep.

Mary’s posture particularly resonates with me. How often in the past month I have sat as she does in this statue—propped against my headboard, neck bent at an awkward angle, feet tangled and legs akimbo, a snoring baby in my arms. I consider her post-partum body, pushed to further limits by her sudden journey and abject fear. Was she able to steal quiet moments amid the mayhem to gaze at her newborn and drink in his milky scent? Did cuddling him make her feel better, even for a couple minutes? Did she regard him as God, or—simply, miraculously—her son?

As I ponder these questions, my own baby shifts and sighs in my arms, and I glimpse the promise of Emmanuel, the physical manifestation of God’s love that surpasses our puny imaginations and overflows our depleted reserves. When the nights are long (and right now, they are), I hold this promise close to my heart and dream of the dawn bound to arrive. It’s the best way to rest my soul, even when my body is weary.


Prayer #373: When Do We Get to Rejoice?

I would like to rejoice with You, exultant God, but I do not have the energy.

Give me a moment to close my eyes so that, shut against the frenzy of Your creation, they open to interior delights.

Give me a moment to lay down my body so that, parallel to the earth You fashioned, it grows more grounded.

Give me a moment to slow my breaths so that, inhaling the whisper of Your unspeakable name, I exhale a long-neglected "hello."

Give me a moment to give myself to You, and together may we rest.

Amen.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Living through genesis

The story of creation. m kasahara/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
 

Early in my maternity leave, my dear church friend Kathleen stopped by for a porch visit with me and the baby. As is our wont, our conversation quickly turned deep as we discussed loss, grief, change, opportunity, creation ... you know, the light stuff.

Creation in particular is a favorite topic of mine and Kathleen's. We are art-enlivened ponderers, and we express ourselves most fully through words. So it was completely in character when, after I'd updated her on my latest fallow writing period and small but insistent steps forward with querying my prayer book manuscript, Kathleen said to me, "You have produced a baby and a book. Truly, you are living through genesis."

Living through genesis. Kathleen's poetic phrase captured the liminality of gestation, the long period between conception and birth for both humans and art, the space where risk and potential and discovery combine to startling effect. Living through genesis means trusting that seeds you have planted will bear fruit, even if in ways and at times you can't predict.

This past month, seeds I planted 10+ years when I started this blog blossomed into the fulfillment of a long-held dream: to publish a book. As dedicated readers know, online I write monthly meditations centered around young adult spirituality; offline, I have been shaping this raw material into a manuscript intended for fellow seekers. Now that manuscript will become a book in 2022 courtesy of Lake Drive Books, a new publisher that seeks to "inspire your religious imagination."

As with parenting, I've poured endless dreams, hopes, blood, sweat, tears, and "what the hell am I doing?" moments into writing (though I will forever maintain that producing an infant is a shorter and more efficient process than producing a book). Our popular conception is that genesis isn't so incremental; the narrative centers a lone spark of genius rather than creative accumulation. But really, beyond the Big Bang, hasn't creation itself unfolded in its own sweet time? Why would our wild, boundless dreaming be any different?

It's as writer Elizabeth Gilbert said in a recent On Being episode, The Future of Hope 3: "I think that there are only two things that I’ve been made aware of in the universe that are possibly infinite, and one is the universe itself, and the other is human imagination." I create in order to discover what creation will birth in me; in this way, genesis begets genesis.

As I look ahead to my next phase of the publishing journey, I find myself asking similar questions as when I was poised to become a mother for the first time:

Do I choose and invite the joy that longs to fill me? Have I left room for rampant delight to trample illusory control? In short, am I remaining open to the wonder of it all—the beauty, the discovery, the pain, the enchantment, the enormity and impossibility of life itself?

Today I recognize these as the questions of someone for whom creation equals meaning. I never know what the answers will be or when they will come, but I do know they are sometimes the least interesting part of the equation. To craft the question, to pursue the process, to envision the result ... here is where the real birth takes place, of art and soul alike.

 

Prayer #372: Vision Realized (see Prayer #226 and Prayer #294)

You are living the vision I planted in your heart, and your awe overwhelms you.

Your two minds on the matter—doubt that the vision could materialize, conviction that it would—have receded in favor of pure gratitude. Gratitude for endurance and patience, doggedness and dumb luck, constraints and inspiration. Gratitude for all the support you've received and time you've invested. Gratitude for belief in yourself, in me, and in our unfolding vision.

This I promise you: As much as you are celebrating right now, I am celebrating you a hundredfold. I have always celebrated you, in fact, because I love you for who you are, not what you do.

Yes, you have coaxed a conflagration from a single spark, a feat worthy of appreciation. But the true miracle is you witnessing your own formation as it happens. Rejoice in this gift, and see what new vision it creates.

Amen.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

"Vacation"

Tidal toddler. October 2021.
 

Every morning on vacation—after I watched the sunrise during the infant's first feeding, after the toddler resisted changing his diaper or donning a bathing suit, after the husband figured out his telework schedule for the day, after the infant nursed a second time, after I applied sunscreen and filled waterbottles and packed snacks and finished half a cup of by-now-lukewarm coffee—a random combination of the four of us would land on the beach that lay a stone's throw from our rental home's deck. And every morning for 14 days, as we followed some tortuous variation of this "schedule," this old Onion article headline flitted across my memory: Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties.

Indeed, our two weeks at the beach earlier this month were largely a corrupted version of our regular life, only with less childcare and more sand. Or, in the semantics of many fellow parent peers, we were on a "trip" rather than a "vacation." And what a trip it was, filled with breathtaking tantrums, delightful discoveries, physical exhaustion, unbridled play, and raging doubts on my and husband's parts about whether we are in fact able to parent one child, much less two.

Just what everyone wants to think about on "vacation," right? Except traveling—or rather, being out of one's predictable routine and curated milieu—is precisely the time when the parenting rubber meets the road and lays bare whatever issues you've managed to avoid until that point. For me, watching my older child have many ugly meltdowns (sometimes several per day) drove home for me the stark responsibility that not only must I model appropriate behavior, but that I also must name and minister to all attendant emotions—a tall order when I too feel helpless, inadequate, or just plain tired.

Basically, I have to be the grown-up. But on "vacation," I didn't want to be the grown-up. I wanted to sit on the beach for nine hours straight and fall asleep whenever I felt like it and begin movies earlier than 9 p.m. so I could reach the end credits awake. I wanted the life I once led, just with the addition of adorable babies in bathing suits. Was that so much to ask?

Apparently ... yes. Because that's not my current life, and it hasn't been my life for a while. Just as winds and tides reshape dunes (sometimes gradually, sometimes with brute force), so am I constantly adjusting to my role as parent, an identity that, three years in, I still prompt myself to claim.

At one moment, however, it was just me and my toddler out on the near-deserted beach. We were jumping in the breakers under a cool gray sky, his light blue hat and orange swim shirt a reminder of summer in the early autumn light. His sand-covered hand was tight in mine, but not because he was frightened. Rather, he was thrilled.

At one point he pulled away and ventured by himself a few feet farther into the water. I watched him clench his gritty hands at his hips, whether from chills or determination, I don't know, but nothing deterred him from his firm stance, beckoning waves that must have appeared immense in his eyes, shrieking with delight whenever one rolled above his knees. Through each swell he remained upright, and after a couple minutes he looked back at me over his shoulder, face alight, to call, "Mommy! Come! The waves!"

He did not need me to steady or comfort him. He simply wanted me to experience this—the vast ocean, the raw power, the immense awe—alongside him. At the sound of his call, his young voice high in the sea breeze, my heart wrenched apart in witness to such naked, trusting, sandy, soaking love.

When I remember this "vacation," I will no doubt recall its lowest low points, the screams and tears from all quarters. But I will also remember this moment, the quiet instance where I watched my firstborn grow in front of my eyes, the interaction that now, reflecting on it, tells me that I must be doing something right to raise a child who is learning the courage to brave big waves; to have a child who yearns to share the endless adventure that is joy.


Prayer #371: Tide Pool

The tide pool seems safest: the briny meat of the sea at the innocent depth of a puddle. Its edges defined, with the promise they will shrink further, disappear, and never overwhelm your little body.

We both must start here, I suppose. You with water only up to your ankles, me with a set container to manage, a simpler danger where I can practice my vigilant scan and suppress my creeping awareness that I will not always be able to keep you safe. The day is so blue that I see your busy frame reflected in the still water—a marriage of sky and sea; a fleeting union; a betrothing promise to meet again above, beneath, and within you.

A strange dichotomy, this: Danger lurks everywhere, but so does grace. One I cannot protect you from; the other, I do not presume to. The water only gets deeper from here. Together we swim.

Amen.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

"Mommy, I don't want to pray."

Toddler (not mine) at dinner. quinn.anya/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
 

From age 1.5 to 2.5, my older child was a champion grace-sayer. Every night at dinner, he recited "Bless us, o Lord, and these thy gifts ..." along with the sign of the cross. My husband and I patted ourselves on the back; here, we crowed, was incontrovertible evidence that faith formation begins at home!

But as with many parenting moments, I was soon reminded that nothing about toddlerhood is incontrovertible, especially when one is trying to make a fuzzy, intangible, conceptual deity a concrete reality for a little human who can't even reliably pull up his underwear. After weeks of decreasing interest in our pre-dinner routine, followed by a complete ignoring of the ritual, my son flat-out refused to participate, stating simply but firmly, "Mommy, I don't want to pray."

Here the spiritual rubber met the parenting road, and my internal debate began. Should I turn saying grace into another battleground on the long list of current fronts? Should I try praying spontaneously out loud at other times of the day to a) demonstrate that prayer is not confined to any one form or timestamp and/or b) surprise him into participating? Should I keep saying grace in front of him, ignoring his disinterest but hoping the repetition will one day win out?

Option 1 exhausts me just thinking about it. Given my personal prayer style, Option 2 feels forced. And Option 3 strikes me as stereotypically Catholic, as in, "Just go by the book and you'll be fine."

The better approach, I think, is to admit the honesty—and honestly, shared sentiment—in my son's statement. I mean, sometimes when I feel bored, cynical, defiant, fearful, weary, etc., I don't want to pray either. It doesn't matter that I'm an adult and I know that the practice of prayer might help ameliorate my stress. It's the effort involved in beginning the prayer—in committing time and energy to it—that deters me.

Ok, so I have empathy for my son. But I don't have a clear parenting direction quite yet (story of my life), because he's not an adult and he doesn't understand what he's rebelling against, and I want to continue teaching him that prayer is something he gets to choose while also making prayer something he wants to choose ... a balance I'm not sure I've achieved even for myself.

For now my husband and I will continue saying grace as a family. We will say it over the kiddo's loud protestations. We will say it before lunch, dinner, and occasionally breakfast. We will say it even if we're not feeling it. For if we at least model that we are trying, and hoping, and showing up, then maybe one day our little one will choose to join us.


Prayer #370: A Grace for Harried Parents

God, please bless the food I cooked 25 minutes ago, put on the table 13 minutes ago, and have since watched grow cold as I wrangle my children into seats and bibs and illusory obeisance.

Bless it as I shovel forkfuls between scoldings.

Bless it as my children toss fistfuls on the floor.

Bless it as I swap it, sweep it, compost it.

And wherever the food lands—creative bounty born of a nurturing earth—may my encounters with it remind me to emulate Your abundant and generous patience.

Amen.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

On throwing away love letters

thewheel42/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
 

Last month, engaged in a cleaning frenzy as I awaited the arrival of baby #2, I rediscovered two packets of love letters hidden in my old elementary-school Lands' End backpack. Rediscovered because I had put them there myself a few years earlier; hidden because I did not want my husband to see them.

One packet was from a high school boyfriend, though 'boyfriend' feels like a strong term for what was a single summer of dating, then a year of email correspondence via his university account and my dad's Hotmail one. (Yes, dear reader, I printed all his missives.) The other packet, all handwritten, was from my college boyfriend, though in this case 'boyfriend' doesn't feel strong enough for who was essentially my first love. The first was innocent and sweet; the second, more passionate and raw.

The letters—and the experiences—have been with me for twenty years, through multiple storage containers in multiple residences, yet I had never reread them. Sitting then on my grown-up couch, heavily pregnant, in a home I have made with my spouse of five years, I chose to finally leaf through them. And what I felt was ... aggravated.

Aggravated because the letters were woefully one-sided. I possessed only what these young men wrote to me, not my half of the communication. Thus my perspective—really, my essence—was refracted through their responses. So how meaningful was this correspondence without my voice enclosed? 

Moreover, two decades had passed since they were written. As I scanned the mentions of people and events, I could barely recall the context, much less the details. And beyond that, the letters' version of myself—again, interpreted through another person's lens—no longer existed in the same form (if that version ever did exist in the first place). So why must I maintain an incomplete and inaccurate record of someone who kept evolving?

And the final aggravating knock: If even I, the person directly involved in the correspondence, couldn't draw meaning from them, who in future generations would care to read them or be trusted to interpret them? What might they think of me, rightly or wrongly? And regardless, why should these young men's voices survive over mine?

At this point I'm sure you're wondering exactly why I held onto these for so long in the first place. Three reasons:

1) For much of my 20s, I feared I would never find lasting love, so in the event that life passed me by without a great romance, I kept these letters as evidence that I at least had something sort of once upon a time—a fear now rendered moot by my joyful marriage and growing family.

2) I remembered the letters as being more interesting and illuminating than they really were. For proof of my skewing self-absorption, check out what I wrote about general handwritten correspondence in 2011:

I find an irrepressible power in pulling out these letters and opening the envelopes anew. I daydream about passing them down through the generations. I wonder if one day I’ll become famous, and then my biographers will thank their lucky stars they have all this extant correspondence to shed light into what I hoped for and believed.

Wow, was I offbase. Nothing I hoped for or believed in at the time is captured in these letters, penned by young men who had specific visions of—and desires for—who I was to them. So not only would they be useless in that regard to future biographers, they actively betray who I am and who I will continue to become. You want my voice, dear descendants and future chroniclers? Turn to my journals where I speak in all my warty glory, honest and unfiltered and wholly myself, page after page, year after year, as I grow in real time.

3) This one I'm abashed to admit: More than remembering, I want to be remembered. Holding onto letters is my puny bid at immortality. But no amount of preserved paper is going to keep me from dying one day, and considering the impermanence of both medium and recipient is tough, humbling, and ... freeing.

Accepting that my time is fleeting—and my storage capacity limited—frees me of the desire to possess objects, people, and past versions of myself. It frees up space to accumulate self-knowledge and wisdom rather than basement clutter. And it frees me from the obligation to remember. Ultimately consigning the love letters to the recycling bin gave me permission to forget, for we are not meant to relive every detail of our life while we are still living it.

And really, I haven't forgotten the most important lessons from these relationships and their documentation—that I deserve love, am worthy of love, and have ample love to give. May embodying this wisdom become my true legacy, the one that ends up papered on others' hearts.


Prayer #369: Negative Space

Negative space: an area of a painting, sculpture, etc., containing no contrasting shapes, figures, or colors itself, but framed by solid or positive forms, esp. one that constitutes a particularly powerful or significant part of the whole composition; also in extended use. (OED)

Help me grow more comfortable with holes in the narrative, gaps in the picture, rests in the melody ... all holy silences that appear blank but, upon closer inspection, unfurl and brim with movement. These mark my moments of change, where I exceeded once-snug frames, illuminated new scenes, and struck fresh chords. 

And like any outstanding work of art that draws its power from the ephemeral pop of transformation, help me examine my life up close and at a distance—close not with smothering attention but with loving discernment, and distant not with cool detachment but with the rich benefit of space, time, and wisdom.

Amen.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The stoppage of time

Disassembled watch components spread out on flat surface.
col_adamson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
 

At the beginning of pandemic, my watch battery died.

No, I am not making up that coincidence; within two weeks of going into lockdown, my already slowing battery ground to a halt, and I wasn't about to risk contracting a frightening virus by venturing out to replace it.

The watch stayed lifeless for 16 months, gathering dust on top of my dresser next to my wedding and engagement rings, all relics of a not-too-distant yet now-inconceivable routine where I'd put them on each morning before catching a train and heading into the office. In the before times, the only occasion where I'd leave my watch off for an extended period was whenever I found myself on a beach vacation; in such a setting, I found that unmooring myself from the knowledge of passing hours enhanced my relaxation. Now, however, I left it untouched because time had unmoored itself from me, and I did not wish to remind myself hour by hour, minute by minute, of that discomfiting shift.

In her book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, author Katherine May writes:

There are gaps in the mesh of the everyday world, and sometimes they open up and you fall through them into somewhere else. Somewhere Else runs at a different pace to the here and now, where everyone else carries on. Somewhere Else is where ghosts live, concealed from view and only glimpsed by people in the real world. Somewhere Else exists at a delay, so that you can’t quite keep pace. Perhaps I was already teetering on the brink of Somewhere Else anyway; but now I fell through, as simply and discreetly as dust sifting between the floorboards. I was surprised to find that I felt at home there. Winter had begun.

The prolonged pandemic isolation was for me a personal winter, as it was for so many people, and as the months dragged on, my watchless wrist came to symbolize my Somewhere Else. My daily routines slowly evolved to incorporate more toddler time, less commute time, different chore schedules. I had more time to cook but took less enjoyment in it. Outside of my work day, I rarely checked the time because I had no one to meet and nowhere to be. Instead I watched the daylight hours wax and wane according to the season; I felt my energy ebb and flow in response to pregnancy; and I never bothered putting "fix watch" on my to-do list because truly, there was no point.

That is, I didn't bother until two weeks ago, when the reality of the new baby's looming due date spurred me to address many lingering, pandemic-delayed tasks in a burst of productivity that I hadn't experienced since March 2020. The process took a quick trip to a jeweler and cost $25, and there it was ticking back to life, my trusty silver watch, my constant companion until it wasn't.

I haven't started wearing it again, though. I first chalked up my avoidance to uncomfortable swelling from summer heat and pregnancy, but that's not entirely true. The fact is, I don't know that I'm ready to reenter a time-keeping world, and I'm coming up with other excuses for delaying what I don't want to be inevitable but increasingly feel will be.

Here's May again from Wintering: "It’s a kind of sympathetic magic to handle something so pointless with such reverence: I am tending to the dead, gently laying to rest a set of values for which I no longer have any use." My watch is ticking again, but what about my relationship to time? What values about marking, measuring, and using this finite resource have I discarded—or assumed—since entering my Somewhere Else? And once I identify those values, what if anything do I intend to do about them?

Thanks to my upcoming maternity leave (another flavor of Somewhere Else), I have plenty more unmoored days, hours, and minutes ahead of me to contemplate where I've landed in this mysterious plane. New routines will emerge; new commitments will surface; old obligations might falter. My task right now is not to watch the seconds tick by, but to let the river of time carry me toward surprise—and if I'm fortunate, toward revelation.


Prayer #368: No Longer of the Essence

I have signed no contract. Added no clause. Agreed to nothing that I ever understood as binding. My time is essential to me and me alone, and only I must be satisfied with the terms under which I spend it.

God of cosmic scale, help me not keep time but release it, to loosen my grip on the hour glass and instead experience the soft flow of sand between my fingers, soothing in its silkiness, comforting in its constant movement, freeing in its uncountability.

Amen.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

FOMO? No more.

lilongd/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Consider the following: I'm a COVID-19-vaccinated adult within a circle of equally vaccinated family and friends. I live in the United States where the vaccine rate is plugging along and restrictions are loosening. Summer, my beloved season of youthful freedom, is here, inviting me to play and frolic with renewed vigor.

And yet: I am pregnant, less than a month away from giving birth to an unvaccinated infant who will join my household's unvaccinated toddler, continuing to limit our options in the reopening world. I know firsthand that even the calmest, most healthy, least stressful maternity leave is still an exhausting and isolating time. And summer, the aforementioned favorite season, is also hot as balls, which can lead to air-conditioned cabin fever.

The result: a confusing, paralyzing mix of FOMO (fear of missing out), JOMO (joy of missing out), and YOLO (you only live once) where I find myself hopeful, disappointed, and anxious in equal measure about making "real" plans, whatever "real" means right now amid the shifting sands of concrete medical guidance and personal comfort levels.

Indeed, as this liminal season unfolds, I feel I'm embodying a cage match between physical, emotional, and psychological health when I prefer there be no competition at all. Why? Because I've learned that life in the "before times" wasn't as sustainable as I once believed it to be, and I don't want to resume that previous life (or a refraction of it) without considering what alternative paths I might follow.

In this respect, my upcoming maternity leave is well timed because it will be everything but business as usual. Even without pandemic (somewhat) in the rear view mirror, I would be stepping away from the hamster wheel for a spell and recalibrating life as I know it. And with pandemic, my mindset has already shifted to more reliably asking, "What do I need most right now? What do I want? Where do the answers intersect?"

At first blush I feel selfish asking these questions. But at their root lies a newly ignited desire not only to maintain the presence I've discovered during pandemic, but to practice incorporating it into my present life. Not my college-bound teen life, mind you, or my young professional 20s, or my newly married early 30s, but this life as a late-30-something parent of two in the midst of a personal and societal paradigm shift.

A life where safely attending church again as a family of four sounds more restorative than schlepping downtown for a 9 p.m. improv show.

A life where where working remotely/not commuting most of the week seems like a humane way to reclaim precious weekend hours from mundane chores and instead use them to play, nap, and enjoy rather than resent my small children. 

A life where I permit some time to be unscheduled and purposeless—perhaps for Type A me the most radical and terrifying change of all.

So how can I do this without guilt, without fear of judgement (from others or myself), and without starving or losing some essential part of who I am? In this instance, presence is both the goal and the yardstick. It's about asking myself seriously and answering honestly:

  • What will [insert activity/action] deliver unto me right now?
  • Will it create joy, rest, catharsis, and/or growth?
  • Will it help me feel most like me?
  • Will it keep me physically safe and healthy?
  • Will it ground me in this moment in time?

Ultimately, I have to trust that using presence as my guide will lead to fruitful surprise, because to exit this profound period of transition unchanged would be to waste the unique opportunity it presents for reinvention. Let me then claim my alternate path as NOMO. No more knee-jerk yeses. No more hasty commitments. No more over-extension of limited time and energy. No more unconsidered habits or patterns.

I will "miss out" in order to identify what's missing in the here and now. Wish me luck.


Prayer #367: The Assurance of Leaves

I have taken to perceiving inspiration as fresh leaves drifting by in a stream, some lazily, some rapidly, all transient. And every time one crosses my field of vision, I wonder: Should I stare at it? Scoop it? Lunge after it in a wild, frantic splash?

I only wonder, though. I don't act on any of these options because I'm too weary to flounder and too heavy to float. Sure, I'd love a good jolt from the bracing water, the thrill of fascination, but re-encountering once-routine actions is jolt enough right now, and I prefer not to drown.

One day, I'm certain, these sensations will stabilize and I'll engage again. What will my perception and participation look like then? Perhaps I will regard the floating leaf, enjoy its buoyant possibility, and release it (in gaze or palm) without remorse because I have finally grown to trust the river's steady movement, the currents' reliability, and my own tested faith, borne of the assurance that leaves will always fall. Drift. Appear.

Amen.