Tuesday, June 9, 2015

segmented reeds

You will have to excuse me.  I am feeling a bit sentimental.  Oh alright.  I am feeling a bit weepy.  This week is our children's last week of school.  The end of elementary school for one, and one step closer to high school for another.  And for the last, a year of complete awesome.  With another ahead.  

Thank goodness for the school years, for their beginnings and endings.  To remind us, mark for us, celebrate for us, the passage of time and growth and changes. For the breaks in the schedules, moving from slow to fast, happily full to gloriously empty.  Anxious anticipation to satisfied proud completion. 

I was reminded of this, the artificial sections and breaks, and how they all add up to a life during a few moments out on the lake.   We carried two kayaks and one canoe down to the shore.  As I brushed the enormous spiders off the paddles in the boat house, I came upon the back rest and remembered how I used to use it, and how I would sit on an older unlikely-to-float-anymore plaid life jacket, long ago discarded, to make my seat a little bit more comfortable.  I grabbed our infant life jacket, fitting no child in the family any more, and threw it in the bottom of the canoe for Elliott to sit on.

Out in the lake, I was kicked out of my usual place in the front and watched Nicholas skillfully paddle the canoe I grew up in, sitting in the middle between my parents, where Elliott sat that day. 

Out on the lake, a woods, a shoreline protected and much the same as it was when I was a child, we paddled quietly.  With no real plan in mind for where we were heading.

I noticed the one significant change I could see, the three wind turbines far off and dotting the horizon.  I know they are contentious.  But I find them beautiful.  And so very important, what they stand for.

It's early in the summer, so the beaches are still covered in leaves and drift.  And in our quiet ease, I played the same game with myself that I used to play when bored and perhaps rolling my eyes about my parents' slow and aimless canoe rides.  I listened for sounds of rustling and snapping and movement just behind the trees on the shore.  And made up images and stories about what was back there, just out of view, watching us through the branches.

This line of mountains, it so familiar it is etched in my memory.  I can summon its contours onto my eyelids when I close my eyes.  And the tiny cottages along the shore, with the vastness of the rolling foothills of western Maine, remind me each time of just how much wildness is still out there.  And how small we are within all that.

And then, Nicholas, back in the other kayak, having switched places with Julia in the canoe when I was deep in thought, paddled over.  And asked me.  Mom, can we go through the reeds?

Which we did.  This tradition from my childhood, that I have passed on to them.  We have no better tradition, I would venture, in our family.  Of sitting quietly together in the boat or kayak or canoe and using all our senses.  And, yes, of being pretty bored.  Watching for turtles and fish, dipping fingertips in the cool water and drawing with the drips inside the boat.  The smells of the earthy wet and green.  The waterbugs on the water's surface and the dragonflies zipping about.  The feeling when your kayak is being slowed by the strength of the reeds as they separate.  Being still enough, aware enough, to really feel the pulls, the resistance, the shifts in sound and movement.

That's when I remembered.  There are two kinds of reeds here.  The simple green "garden/lake variety" reeds.  And then there are the segmented reeds.  Rarer when I was little.  And my father would paddle us around until we found a patch.  And then I would reach out and down into the water and pull out a handful.  And occupy myself with pulling each section apart.  Run my fingers along the feathery borders of each section.  I would dip them in the lake and draw with them like paintbrushes on the dry wood in the canoe.  And the smell of varnish and wood and mud.  Ohhh.

We found the patches, more numerous now than I remember as a child.  And I drifted while I pulled apart the sections.  These reeds, and the feeling of pulling them apart.  I imagine it is as comforting to me as clicking together and apart Legos can be to Nicholas.  And that day, the feathery edges, they reminded me more of eyelashes actually.  Of young children's long curled dark and rich eyelashes, blinking over childishly large eyes.  Eyes that they impossibly somehow, someday, grow into, and their lashes either change, or become at least less pronounced.

Their eyes may be less round and wide with the newness of everything, but they are so capable of looking, of seeing, of wondering, in ways that are large, thoughtful, and expansive now.  

To see, recognize, feel the vastness of what is around us.

And so, in these last days of school.  Of goodbyes.  And thank yous.  And meaningful hugs and looks and glances away while we all collect ourselves.  The segments of time, of childhood, of years.  The comfort in their routine, of feeling confident that they are ready for their next thing, of years of exactly what they each needed, though we did not really know what those things were as we began.  All through the lens of feathery drawing and looks fringed through long and sensitive lashes.

It is good.  And I am thankful for the breaks that feel just right, the segments, the transitions, the reminders of how it is all passing.

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