Seeing the “After”

If you live in the coastal Southeast, you’ve seen a lot the last couple of weeks.

In the beginning of Matthew, you spent untold hours scouring every weather outlet you could find, hoping for eastward turns toward open sea, praying for dissipation. You packed and left, or you hunkered down to wait while sustained winds of seventy-four plus mph bore down on a land and a life that you love.

On the other side of the storm, you returned to your home, or you opened your front door to see the “after.” You saw what wind and water can do: You saw trees, generations old, now uprooted; homes, solid-built, now ravaged; roadways, once seemingly indestructible, now splintered, collapsed, or even gone. Some of your homes were spared from damage. Some were not. Some of you returned to normal lives. Some of you did not.

Most of you have wept, for one reason or another. There has been much to weep about these last couple of weeks.

But, you’ve seen other things, too.

You’ve seen the look on faces come home to see all that still stands. You’ve seen women and men trade the tools of their professions for chainsaws and hammers, the sounds of their work breaking the early hours of post-hurricane silence. You’ve seen strangers break bread together on broken streets and back alleys. You’ve seen relief workers, from far away places, come to help clear and clean, to help feed and friend both those who have lost little and those who have lost much. You’ve seen laughter in the strangest of all places.

This sweet gain that comes amid the “after” of such loss?

It’s a lot to see.


** Our prayers and thoughts extend now especially to our friends and neighbors to the west, still now facing the post-hurricane devastation of flooding in their communities.

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Hundreds of Facts About Boys

IMG_9803This morning, I found an informative piece of literature on…ahem…a random desk somewhere near me. I’m not going to identify the author of the piece, because technically, it could be anyone.

IMG_9800 (2)Clearly, however, it’s penned by someone who lives in close proximity to boys, by someone who knows their “natural habitats,” “how neat they keep the bathrooms,” and their “inappropriateness.”

Ah, well. We may never be certain of the source of such wisdom. But approximately half of us know the truth that lies therein.

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Part of the Silence

According to Irish writer Robert Lynd, “In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.” Having walked the earth for well over a decade alongside the children I put here, this silence, in this last decade-plus, has been about as likely as an uninterrupted glass of wine, a short chapter read unpunctuated by a homework emergency, or a quick bathroom break without a knock on the door (still feels like it ain’t ever gonna stop). I can’t tell you how many times birds have landed on our decks or near us in the sand, only to be quickly scared away by the sounds of large voices in little bodies.

Nevertheless, the once small people are now the formerly small people, moving day by day closer to adulthood, so of late I am finding myself with the occasional moment of alone time. A few evenings ago, then, I was walking alone on a large walkway by the water when three people fell in behind me, one pulling a large array of fishing gear.

One of the men, from parts north of here, seemed disgruntled, and bemoaned the humidity. The man pulling the gear, however, noticed I had stopped and pointed my camera toward some birds, and apologized for making so much sound as he passed me. He and his female companion continued on and ended up much further down the walkway. Disgruntled found a sympathetic ear on the other end of his cell, apparently, and headed the opposite direction, away from the water. I was alone again, and in front of me stood this heron, unmoved by the recent human exchange.

I have a storied history with birds, dating back to the sixth grade and my would-have-been first croissant ever that came with a side of excrement. However, this history was complicated well over a decade ago with our move to an island, where, regardless of problematic micturition tendencies, birds’ pageantry is on full display over the Atlantic and around the surrounding waterways.

So our relationship is complex. I’ve settled with a guarded level of bird watching.

IMG_9733That evening, after taking a few shots, I set my camera down, crouched, and watched the heron stare into the watery distance.

IMG_9746IMG_9736 He moved his legs only slightly, sparingly shifting his weight. For a few minutes as I paused there by the water, the only sounds were the sounds of fish breaking the water’s surface and birds wandering through its shallow edges.

In Edith Wharton’s novel The Reef, one of the characters describes silence as being “as variously shaded as speech.” While Wharton wrote within the world of complex character relationships, I think shades of silence can extend into other worlds of experience as well. And that includes this one, as I knelt low to the water, seeing the bird and becoming part of one shade of silence.

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