In early spring, on a warm evening, Little Girl and I walked to the pond. We walk to the pond when her life force can no longer be contained in by the house. So we walk to the pond most days. Sometimes twice. Three times on a Sunday. Her heart’s expansive. It needs a place to be unleashed. Mine does too.
For a while, for many months, after my nephew drowned, I went to the pond, even though I did not want to. It was the last place I wanted to be. I felt displaced. Disoriented. The still water, it did not offer the solace it used to.
I waited for God, to heal my heart, with my children beside me, at the edge of this pond.
We walked down the hill to the pond, over familiar cracks in the pavement, the soft evening light passed through arching branches overhead, making them tall on the ground. We’re like water, Little Girl and I, always running down hill, drawn by the invisible force of gravity toward the pond.
Even when I did not want to be there, I always ended up there.
“Mama, explain to me again, how the raccoon got the goose eggs?”
“Well, raccoons are omnivores and opportunists. They’re always looking for an easy meal and unattended eggs make for a very good meal.”
“But didn’t the Papa Goose fight the raccoon?”
“I don’t know, I assume that the Mama and Papa Goose were away swimming or eating. For just a moment. It only takes a moment.”
“And the raccoon ate the eggs? The eggs that were growing the baby gooses? So no baby gooses this spring?”
“Because the raccoon got hungry?”
“Was the Mama and Papa Goose sad? Or mad? That raccoon is bad!”
“Not bad, just hungry. And wasteful.”
“Mama, explain it to me again, how the raccoon got the goose eggs?”
I sighed. We’d been talking in this loop for a week. Grief is like that. It circles. Understanding is like that too. Circling and spiraling. And trust. And waiting by still water, for God to reveal himself again. Suddenly, she dropped into a crouch and tugged me down with her. She smoothed her golden brown hair out of her eyes and tucked that stray bit that is forever in her face behind her ears.
“Look, Mama,” she whispered. “Two ducks. What are those other ducks called that we see here sometimes, the kind that aren’t gooses?”
“Look, Mama, mallards. Are they making a nest?”
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s watch and see.”
We bear crawled off the road and into the reeds by the pond. Closer and closer to the two mallards, a male and female pair, walking around and around in a circle on a grassy outcropping. We crouched and watched until our feet started tingling. She squatted, her face intent. The orange sunset turned the pond water molten gold. For a moment, the azaleas in the forest were no longer pink, purple, and white, they were on fire from the setting sun. The sun sank. Twilight softened the sky and forest into watercolors of ultramarine and Prussian blue. I found Venus above the tree line. The air cooled, I saw the skin on her arms prickle with goosebumps. The ducks slipped into the water and swam away, leaving ripples in their wake.
“It’s time for bed,” I whispered.
“Will you carry me? I’m so tired.”
She nestled into my arms and I felt her heartbeat against mine. I picked her up, her long arms and legs overflowing. I walked back up the hill toward home, grateful she still had the same smell at the back of her neck she had as a baby. Grateful I recognized the way it curved on my shoulder.
The grief of the lost child, heavy in my heart. The joy of holding my living daughter, surprising and light. Sweeter, stranger, more potent, because they shared the same space in my chest.
“I have never loved her this much,” I thought.