For my friend Katy Raits. Current Park Ranger & accomplished “translator” of the Everglades in any number of Human languages. Proud grandmother. Timeless Sojourner of the Spirit. Wife and Soul mate to my bud Eric. A true blue blessing to many.
(Illustration after N.C. Wyeth’s “All Birds Have Homes,” McCall’s Magazine, 1928)
MAYBE one day I shall share her story, or we, ours. We’ve talked about that, and spoken of possibly doing a web log on the subject, because life is sometimes stranger and more wondrous than fiction (by far!), and God knows there’s an abundance of existing material: story, graphics, you name it. She showed it to me once; the astonishing whole of it filling a big fat accordion-type folder. Big enough (it turns out) to help serve as ballast back when the winds were blowing hard, and from unpredictable directions. There was a time when she used to take it with here everywhere she went, she told me.
(I hope to God that’s not still true, as she tromps through the Godforsaken Everglades, laughing at the razor sharp and ravenous saw grass quietly waiting to devour, as patient as it is deadly; crossing wide streams by leaping from the slimy, scaly back of one bull gator to the next; fully engrossed in a paperback novel held in one hand, while casually dispatching a 20 foot Burmese Python with her standard-issue, razor sharp “filet ‘o Snake” blade held tight in the other. (OK, maybe I exaggerate, slightly, but she did tell me that her job duties actually include capturing HUGE, sharp fanged, and incredibly powerful snakes with her own two hands! As Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry is fond of saying, “I am not making this up!”))
I suppose in a way I’ve started backwards, with an illustration preceding the tale it might accompany. But that makes no difference, because though the story involves an epic journey of sorts, it certainly begins in Love, and will end (if ever) exactly back where it began. The destination might finally seem a very different place, even entirely unconnected to the dark point of origin, as if a sequence of footsteps unbroken had not led exactly from one to the other! But they have.
And if you stop to think about it, it is those differences alone that tell us how far we’ve come. They are also the gold (of the kind that stays, and never fades) redeemed unknown or unrecognized along the way of the long dark nights, the unbearable crucifixions of Fear, and lonesome seasons of wintry storm raging inside, that no glowing hearth might warm, nor anyone else even see. If we but had the vision to see, we might be comforted “in the meantime” by a sweet assurance that in the end, not one bit of it is wasted. All loose ends come together, though at times we certainly cannot even begin to fathom how that is likely to happen.
Time is the reason for the beauty of the long road, said one poet. (Or perhaps I dreamt it, because I’ve never been able to find the quote! If anyone out there could help me “awaken” with a source or even some vague notion, I’d appreciate it.)
And so here we all are, alone and struggling, yet part of one great shimmering whole. Not wandering in meaningless circles or constantly butting our aching heads against hard dead-ends as it seems, but possibly faithfully acting our parts according to some choreography necessarily beyond our present ability to perceive, or comprehend.
So, as long we’re wandering around the Promised Land like idiots stumbling lost in a vast desert, why not celebrate the love in our lives, if necessary first taking the time to recognize it? And what might happen if we actually dare risk consciously opening up our hearts, for more? (It’s not like I have answers, necessarily; I’m just asking!)
Thank you for being there. Thank you for being.