A Still Small Voice:
The author (age 7) with her two brothers, Spens (age 5) on the left and Mike (age 12) on the right.
You can see/hear me read this on YouTube.
We walk towards the pine woods together. He carries the fishing poles and tackle, I skip and run, trying to keep up with his gigantic strides. It is early May, the wind puffs, a crow raucously celebrates surviving until yet another time of plenty, the pine trees fill the air with fine, yellow pollen. We are alone together, no brothers compete for his attention. I feel so very special to be alone with him.
Later I look down through the railing of the bridge and see a crayfish start climbing up my line. It is silvery in color, huge, coming at me. Its eyes stare at me, focus in on me, look at its next meal. “Daddy, there's a crayfish climbing my line.” He reaches down and plucks a hook out of his tackle box.
Nervously, I look down again. Still climbing. Closer and closer. “Daddy, help me! A crayfish is coming!” He ties a firm knot, then reaches down to get his knife to cut the excess line.
“Daddy, please help me! It's getting closer and closer. It's going to pinch me and never let go. Daddy, help me!” He closes his knife and puts it in his back pocket. Then he reaches down for a worm.
The crayfish continues his deliberate climb towards me. He begins to thread the worm on the hook. Closer it climbs, closer and closer. Why doesn't he do something?
I back as far away from the crayfish as I can, holding the long pole by its very end. The crayfish appears on the fishing line in the space between the railing and the tip of the pole, and my fear takes over. I flip the butt of the pole towards the river as I wheel about and begin running to him for protection. I need, with a three-year-old's desperate intensity, to be held tightly and told that the world is safe.
He lets out a yell of surprise as the pole slides over the railing and tumbles slowly into the creek below. Reaching down, he grasps me under my armpits and begins to raise me into his arms, so I think. But he raises me and raises me until he holds me as high as his arms will allow. Then he pivots toward the railing, and he throws me off the bridge.
Like the pole moments before, I go into a slow, lazy tumble towards the spring-swollen creek. Only afterwards, as I first get my head out of the water that has held me under for so long and then try to fight towards the bank through the current, is there time enough to begin to know what has happened. Only then does fear catch up with me, chilling me far more than the water could have done.
I stop fighting against the current, stand buffeted by roiling chest-high water and turn to look up at him, bright against the dark of the pines. He leans on the rail, looking down at me curiously, wondering, it seems, how I came to be where I am. He says nothing.
I struggle out of the water, slipping several times on the muddy bank. Then I begin trudging along the path leading towards the house where I will get a spanking from my mother for falling into the creek. Dry, soundless sobs shake me.
read on below...
The author in South Carolina, approximately 1994.
Part III: Moving Toward Roots
“Imagine, if you can, a gigantic white oval-shaped structure. Its surface is highly polished, with a depth to the whiteness that seems to go on forever. And the whiteness has pinks and blues and other soft colors in it if you look closely. As you approach it, you see a small opening, one just big enough to allow entry. You enter and first perceive only darkness. As your eyes adjust, however, infinitely far away, towards the top, you see flashes of light, beautiful colored light. It appears to come from many mobile-like structures. And as the mobiles slowly revolve, you hear the gentle tinkle of bells. Almost you don't hear and you don't see because the lights and sounds are so fragile and delicate.
“I call this my egg, Renee. To reach it I need only to close my eyes, and I'm enveloped by a sense of wonder and gentle awe. My egg is always with me, just inside, an eye blink away. It's so incredibly beautiful that I would like to invite the entire world inside to rest in the peacefulness. My egg, my beautiful egg, offers calm and quiet and a sense of joy. When the world outside is spinning in confusion and noise and rushing, I can go into my egg and feel a child's primary delight at beauty. It's a beauty beyond understanding but always there.” It felt so very good to share my egg with Renee. Without her I never would have reached it.
When she spoke, her tone was as soft and as gentle as mine had been. “It sounds as if you're pregnant, Kate.”
“Maybe I am. If so, it's not with child.”
“When did you first notice your egg?”
“I don't know exactly. A couple of months ago, maybe. I know that I should have told you about it before.” Renee nodded yes and I smiled at my old habit of secret-keeping. Maybe I would never learn. “But I had to keep it as just mine for a while. I was afraid that it would go away if we talked about it.”
“What is your egg, Kate?”
“I'm not sure, Renee. It may be a new level of peace inside me. It may be Judaism. I'm not sure. Sometimes I think that it's love.”
“What kind of love?” Always with the questions, that one. Well, her questions had taken me very far from the beginning.
“For my child, the world. Who knows?”
“Does it scare you at all?”
Oops, she guessed. “At first it did, “ I admitted. “It's rather crazy to have a gigantic egg inside you, isn't it? Do you know anyone else in the world who has this kind of internal retreat, filled with beauty?”
“Many people,” Renee reassured. “Most aren't as acutely aware of it as you are, most can't see it as vividly or describe it so graphically, but many people carry peace around with them like you're doing.”
“Sometimes, yes. I can't see mine, though, because I don't think and feel in pictures like you. I just feel it, I guess. It's knowing who I am, being pleased with myself, knowing that I'm doing what's right, loving myself. And so much more, of course.”
“Do you suppose that my egg will stay with me from now on?” I asked with concern for it.
“I can't tell, Kate. You know that I'm not good at fortune telling.” We smiled at each other with fondness, her for my consistent asking for reassurance, me for her consistent refusal to predict. “I would think, though, that it will stay with you as long as your child feels secure and protected by you.”
“It's like an added, unexpected, beauty bonus that I got just for reaching that child. It wouldn't be there if I hadn't done it. All these years that I've lived without my egg when it could have been mine, Renee!”
“Are you angry?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I'm just terribly sad that I have missed so much that is beautiful in life. I could have had it all along, maybe. Maybe if my parents hadn't been so bad at being parents, maybe I could have had it with me from the beginning.”
“Or maybe something that beautiful could only have been yours by going through all the hurt and pain that have been yours. Maybe it's your reward for your struggles. There's no way to know, Kate.”
“I know, Renee, I know. Maybe, even, it was a gift from you which you couldn't see but I could. Maybe it's just love that you gave me, and in the giving it grew to fill up all available space inside me because love given generates love in return.”
“Like rising bread will fill up all space?”
“Sort of.” I looked across the room at Renee and felt the full force of all the time and patience and understanding and, yes, love that she had been giving to me for over three years now. How could I ever possibly repay her? The weight of my debt to her, the sheer hopelessness of repayment, pulled down at me and, again, I felt acute sadness.
“What's wrong, Kate?”
I sighed. “Nothing. I'm just feeling sad.”
“It's going to sound crazy.” She waited, not saying anything, giving me the time to feel the pressure of the growing silence and to feel my need to talk. “It's like this. I was looking at you, remembering, and I could feel everything that you have given to me. I can't possibly repay my debt to you. There's no price that could be put on what you've given to me. And so I was feeling inadequate and grateful and very privileged and a bit overwhelmed by the hopelessness of my situation.”
Renee spoke slowly, staring intensely at me. “Can your girls ever repay you for all that you have given them?”
“No, but I don't expect them to. It was my job to give, theirs to take what they needed. Someday they will give to their children in the way that I have given to them. That will be their repayment to me.”
“Love flows down the generations?”
“Yes. It's the uninterrupted flow of love and caring which keeps people human.”
“Is our situation so very different, Kate? True, it's been a lateral flow of love in our case, but you are going to take what I've given to you and pass it both horizontally and vertically. And you're going to receive it from others in the same way, just as you always have. That's my repayment, Kate.”
Copyright © 2009 Diane K. Lavett.
All rights reserved.