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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Fall on the Coast

IMG_9777Live (ish) from the coast: It’s fall, y’all!

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Apparel Mishaps

Five years ago, I shared the story of how my two sons wore each other’s ill-fitting khaki shorts to a church we were visiting without my realizing it until mid-service. I’ve decided to repost the story solely because of events that occurred earlier today.

See, as we drove home from school this afternoon, I realized that my boys had worn each other’s shirts to school this time. It was especially exciting to note that both boys walked around the whole day and not only never even noticed, but also initially tried to dispute my observations on their ill-fitting garments. This dispute unfolded all while my younger son sat swimming in a near dress and my older son sat struggling to move his arms. So here we are, five years later, and we’ve come full circle in the world of apparel mishaps.

There are various theories floating around the family as to where true culpability lies. Embracing audacity, the boys both blame their laundress.

Anyhow, the original clothing switch went down like this:

100_2060It’s always fun to take the small people into a formal social situation fraught with potential surprises, where we don’t know a soul. What do I mean?

Well, in yesterday’s case, we took the small people to a new church on our new island.

In a charitable gesture that morning, LCB wordlessly took over supervising the small people’s church preparations, which involved showering, dressing, and brushing teeth. I, therefore, was free to focus my efforts on not finding out where all my heeled sandals are holding their clandestine meeting somewhere deep in my house. In the end, we were without a great deal of  time to spare, so we all hopped in the minivan, drove a block, realized LCB hadn’t finished shaving, drove back to the house, grabbed his shaver and took off again. We made it to the church with about two minutes to spare.

There was the initial confusion where I tried to look something closer to reverent than frazzled while figuring out what to do with my younger two children during the service, since every church seems to have their own system for this. A speed-reading of the bulletin revealed there was a children’s church for them that was starting immediately in another room, so I grabbed their hands and quickly escorted them to the correct room before returning to my seat.

Midway through the sermon, I looked down and noticed my son’s khaki shorts were, well, really short on him, riding almost halfway up his legs. Wow, he’s really growing, I thought, and made a mental note to give the shorts to his younger brother and buy him the next size up.

All of a sudden, it hit me. Those shorts weren’t my older son’s shorts. They were my younger son’s shorts. The boys, with LCB in the distant background, probably just quickly threw on the shorts that I had set out for them without paying much attention.

Which meant, I instantly concluded, that my younger son, now deep in the throes of a new children’s church experience, was wearing my older son’s shorts. My younger son is a full two years younger than his older brother, and he’s extremely thin. Plus, I knew for a fact that he was beltless.

Oh, no.

Please, please let his shorts still be on him, I breathed.

Here’s the thing. If my eldest son’s shorts fell down in public, he would be mortified. He would want to leave wherever he was and never return. Ever. Again.

My younger son? He, on the other hand, would think it was beyond hilarious. If he had a phone, he’d probably take pictures of himself to preserve the humor for all of time. He’d do a dance and create a song on the spot with lyrics like, “Look at me shake my big booty!” and other things just to ensure everyone within a reasonable radius saw him with his pants down before he pulled them up again. IF he pulled them up again.

This, I feel, would be a great way to make new friends in a new church. Or not.

Then, I couldn’t help but think about the whole thing and start to laugh a little, which made me look highly immature and inappropriate, as the minister was not saying anything remotely humorous at the moment. I bit my lip, hard, and tried not to look at my son’s “short shorts” next to me.

The service ended, and we left to collect the younger two children from children’s church. Praise be, my son’s shorts, which looked a little more like capris than shorts, were still in place when I got there.

After we got in the minivan, I asked the boys if they both realized they were wearing each other’s shorts. “Yeah,” they both answered, in tones that suggested it was no big deal.

“Well, weren’t you uncomfortable?” I asked.

“Yeah, I was,” answered the oldest emphatically. Indeed, I can imagine.

“No,” answered the younger, more concise son.

I hesitated, and then pressed him on this. “Did you have problems keeping them up?”

“No, they worked great,” he answered, and as soon as we got home he showed me. Sure enough, they really weren’t obnoxiously loose on him. I haven’t really figured out why yet, because he doesn’t look close to 20 pounds heavier suddenly, but at this point, I don’t really care.

I’m just grateful they stayed where his mother intended them to stay, because had they not, there might have been a group of kids who’d have come home from church singing something a little different than “Kumbaya” this time.

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