Letting Go of Small Hands

1995

I’ve had a lot on my mind, which for some of us leads to tunnel vision, followed by anxiety, followed by…followed by… Last night about four a.m. I wrote a few emails and lay awake understanding just how easy it is for the deepest of rivers to unexpectedly change course and for priorities to slip. So I went to my desk and looked through some old work I have in folders everywhere, thinking about Richard Bach’s Illusions, in which he finds just the answer he’s looking for by opening the nearest book and reading the first passage he sees.

So I did, and when I finished reading, I returned to bed and slept fine.

We don’t get up early enough. We don’t play with the kids enough. We don’t walk on the grass enough; we worry too much about losing. We don’t throw the ball enough, hike through the woods, climb the low trees, eat fruit off the vine, go for a drive. We don’t tell enough stories, listen to records, dance for no reason at all. We don’t call old friends who are hard to find, aunts and uncles who made us laugh, stay longer with our parents talking about the times we had, talking about the rain. Not talking at all. We don’t journey enough to places close by, we don’t find beauty in what there is plenty of, we don’t appreciate what is common, we don’t celebrate what is in our grasp. We’ve lost the art of contemplation, of solitude, of fasting, of quiet walks. We forget the world exists in each step, that the philosophers walk with us, whisper about the temporal state of life, the immortal flight of a bird.

Life is not the fleeting fears at three a.m. Life is not the struggle for money, the loneliness of night, the sense of loss. No.

Life is the way we sit around and laugh until two. Life is the feet on the coffee table, the tie undone, the kids asleep in their beds. Life is the sound of water in a pool, the sound of tea poured into China cups, the sound of distant thunder at dusk. Life is walking with a lover, an old friend, a familiar soul. Life is unwrapped gifts, cards in the mail, the smell of bacon on Sunday morning; drinking beer with friends on Friday night, the first cold day in autumn we need to wear a sweater, life is the spring grass showing beneath the melting snow. It’s the mother in the door waving to her youngest child moving away. It’s the father at the observation deck waving to his son on the plane. It’s the letting go of small hands. Life is the distance between a falling leaf and the ground.