The Patience of Ordinary Things
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottom of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
* * *
He went to bed not knowing whether the hours of preparation would come to fruition the way he hoped.
Sure, she’s five and she’s never studied the trail map, but Lilly was ready to take charge. She recognized when we turned off the one trail she had hiked previously.
“It’s okay. I’ve got this,” her brother assured her.
We took a new path. One that led us parallel to a waterfall, down a tricky set of stone steps (“are we there yet?”), across a bridge over train tracks (“now?”), through patches of fiddleheads and ramps (“yet?) and up and down and around. With each corner we turned, I expected the great reveal to occur: tada! Here’s the beach I promised we’d find.
It would be a place to sit, have a snack, toss some stones and rest (“finally!”). It would be quick pause though, because now I had to worry about getting back in time to teach. And there was the matter of how to encourage Lilly to make the trek home.
Lilly and I climbed the next rise to find, Noah, who had raced ahead to scout, staring at the ground, playing with his upper lip. (Uh-oh).
“So. It’s still a bit farther than I thought.”
The path split off in three directions. Two of them looped back to where we parked. The third, requiring another 1/3 or 1/2 mile descent, went to the river. We’d already hiked a mile and a half, longer than Lilly had previously. And we still had the return trip. And crankiness was kicking in full bore.
It was his trail and he took the lead. But that didn’t absolve me of my responsibility to take care of the two of them. Memories of Lilly’s Stony Point meltdown were still fresh in my attention.
“I think we have to turn around. I’ll start feeding her snacks as we go and see how she does.”
Noah kept the lead, barreling ahead and growing ever more frustrated with our diminishing pace and with Lilly’s protests to slow down or (better yet), “Carry me!”
After passing through the fiddleheads and the ramps, Lilly and I finally caught up with Noah, who was sitting on a rock, impatiently waiting.
“Just prepare for this to get worse before it gets better.”
That was the hiking-with-your-exhausted-sister equivalent of “add some more flour.” It was on him to figure out how to make sense of that info. Not that I wasn’t holding any wisdom back; I didn’t know either. Just like bagel-making, the minutes that followed would require us to feel our way through to figure out what was needed.
Noah barreled off ahead. Again.
I picked Lilly up and began carrying her. It was going to be a long mile and a half.
Noah was waiting for us on the gravel road that led to the bridge over the train tracks. I put Lilly down. Between carrying the backpack full of everyone’s layers and Lilly, my back was going to need breaks along the way. Lilly would have to walk some.
“It’s okay, Dad. I’ve got this.”
Left alone to walk (or barrel) off his frustrations, Noah had turned a corner inside. He told Lilly that from here on in, he would be in charge of carrying her. But only if she could catch up to him. He ran backwards, just out of reach. She found a new burst of energy and quickly laughter replaced whining.
A game of tag ensued and just as Lilly was about to fall back into whining and melt down – sensing she was being duped – Noah, without coaching, picked her up and started carrying her. Up the tricky set of stone steps, parallel to a waterfall and all the way along the new path – as well as the old path that Lilly new.
After a more than a mile of carrying her and with the parking lot in sight. He lowered Lilly to the ground so she could sprint ahead and beat us once again to the finish.
I made it home with plenty of time to teach. In fact, I even had a chance to grab a bagel on my way down to the basement studio. Noah popped upstairs to finish his scholarship essays.