Pinks, blues, golds soften the steel gray of downtown at dawn. The clouds, the river, early light through the strati create an elemental symphony. As I watch the shades shift, inexplicably, thoughts of the hurricane in Haiti assail me. Mornings in Port-au-Prince, the taste of mango, the sun on tin roofs, smoke rising, memories older than a decade touch the present. I remember reading a friend's recent prayer to have her heart broken by the world's suffering. I cry at the wonder that all of this can inhabit a moment. My son remarks, "Clouds make thunder, Mommy." When I ask him what made him think of that, he replies, "Nothing."
We arrive home but none of us want to go inside. I hand my infant flowers and leaves, watch him delightedly grasp at the textures and sense the crackles with his whole little body. He looks at me as the sun rises higher and covers my head in warm rays; I see the gold in his hazel eyes. We gaze at one another, and I wonder if I have ever seen anything so magnificent. I realize he is looking at me with the same love-eyes. I suddenly feel alive.
Soon, I succumb to distraction and check Facebook on my phone. A friend's prompt, "Tell me something beautiful," leaves me eager to comment with details of my day. I read one woman's response that tells the story of her grandmother saying she'd reincarnate as a butterfly. That reminds me: an intuitive once told me that honeybees are a sign my great-grandmother, one of my early caregivers, is close by with a message. I smile at that lovely thought. I glance up from the small screen to see, with surprise, a single honeybee hovering in my line of vision. I set my phone down and watch it carefully, breathing deeply. I think, perhaps I had better keep paying attention to my life. She soon flies away.
My oldest son follows a roly-poly as if it is the most important thing to do (isn't it?) until it crawls out of sight. "I miss her," he frowns, head bowing. Soon enough, though, another roly-poly is discovered. My boy gently offers his finger again and again until she crawls onto his hand. After some time with his friend, he remarks, "Now it's time for her to go to her Mommy." He carefully returns her to her stone, wishing her goodbye. "Go see your Mommy!"
An elderly woman who walks through my neighborhood most mornings, instead of waving and quickly continuing on her way, comes down the path to my front stoop to greet my toddler and coo at my baby. She takes obvious joy in their liveliness. "I'm going to try to get out and work in the yard," she comments. "Enjoy the beautiful morning," I say reflexively. After meandering talk, her voice quiets. "I've just been diagnosed with lung cancer." Words collapse in my throat, so I hold silence with her. With tears in her eyes, she looks once more at my children and walks away. I keen the edges of her sorrow. Watching her retreat, Oak softly says, "I love her."
My son stares at me intently when my own tears come. I explain that I'm sad our neighbor is sick. He holds out his arms, holds me, kisses me, says, "I love you, Mommy. Here, this make you feel better," and offers a drink of water. Once my tears are dried, he lays in the grass, saying, "I love laying in the grass under the brown tree. Me take a nap on the stones." I cradle my younger boy close and offer him my breast. Soft skin on soft skin, milk and tears, warmth and closeness, comfort in the healing pace of knowing, all at once, that you have plenty of time.
I tell the story of the pumpkin seed: that, someday, with the pattern hidden inside its pale shell, it will break open into a squash vine, which will yield as many pumpkins as there were seeds in the pumpkin from which it came. My infant quietly looks on. My toddler turns one seed over and over in his palm. Later, we cook the pumpkin flesh and sweet potatoes. We stir in coconut milk and spices. We are patient, letting the mixture simmer. We smell hints of a meal in the making, one we will share together with others who join us at the table. We listen to the noon bell chime.