In the Tall Bending Grass
I have a picture of my daughter taped to the left side of my bathroom mirror. It is there first thing in the morning when I brush my teeth and there again at night before I go to bed. There she is— her tiny silhouette standing upon a bald mountain top. She isn’t looking at me, but, instead, looking out into the enormous distance. I hung it there in the hopes that I might remember the feeling I had when the camera’s shutter opened just long enough to capture the image. I want to remember the knowing I somehow possessed that sweet and tender evening when grace seemed to fill the distance between us. But even with the photo right there, it is easy to forget. Much too easy. It seems so much is lost in the midst of the spinning cyclone of the everyday responsibilities of motherhood. It seems most of what I say on a daily basis involves telling her what and what not to do. “Put your shoes back on. Not these…those. Don’t scream. Say please. Say thank you. Say I’m sorry. Be careful! Don’t do that, that, or that either! Are you even listening?”
And then there are the darker, unspoken thoughts…the thoughts that in the middle of the night paralyze me in my bed and take me hostage so easily. The thoughts that leave no room for any deeper knowing. Did I seriously trust that roller coaster operator who looked completely hung over with the life of my child? What if that face paint, like Colgate toothpaste, is actually toxic, but no one knows it yet? What if I pass down a crippling autoimmune disease to her? What if she hates me as a teenager? And the drugs…all these new drugs that I’ve never even heard of. Depression…it does run in the family. Car accidents. The wrong friends. Toxic relationships. Childhood cancer.
The fear is relentless and stabs at my heart with the most brutal and violent of blows. And then…the judgment starts. What if thinking these thoughts can actually manifest them? That shit is possible. What if I model fear, and she grows up to be a fearful person? That shit is definitely possible. What’s wrong with me? And then I pray. God, Please, please protect her. Help me, help me, help me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. But, seriously, really, please help me.
All of this frenzied activity to “get it right.” Go, go, go —so little stillness, ever. The “un-simple” life filled with too much to do, too many possessions to take care of, too little time to get it all done. Admittedly, a life I have created myself, some of it consciously, some of it not.
And in this chaos, I simply forget. I forget the most powerful knowing I could ever possess as a mother. I am constantly amazed at how certain truths that I thought were indelibly written across my heart seem to fade amidst the constant chatter and activity. How easily I resign myself to the idea that this is, indeed, the sad reality of life.
However, I have heard it said that if an individual can be still, truly still in mind, body and spirit, even if just for a moment, a truth forgotten can find its way back and return to the owner’s heart. And that is exactly what happened amidst the clouds of an ethereal purple sky. It was one of those rare and magical moments of sublime synchronicity, a moment where both mother and daughter simultaneously stumbled upon stillness together.
I watched her, wild wind in face, drop her tiny arms that had been stretched wide to the twilight. And then, she was just still. She just stood there…perfectly still. I saw her taking in the whole world of her existence. I could, actually, undeniably see her sovereign spirit, her sweet, alive, bold, individual self so utterly separate from me. It, honestly, had absolutely nothing to do with me. I’m not sure why, but for just a second, I thought my heart might break wide open and bleed out right there on the top of that mountain. I could see that every present moment she experienced was her own life, not an extension of my own, and, in reality, had been since the day she so courageously came into this world. I know we all say this. But do we really know this deep in our core, beyond intellectual recognition? Maybe most people do, and I am just behind the learning curve. That would not surprise me in the least. And I’m not totally convinced that I know it now, but for a moment, I knew this child did not really belong to me at all. It was her journey to walk and discover, and all my fears, all my hopes, all my triumphs and failures had unequivocally nothing to do with her whatsoever.
And then, it just happened…a moment of perfect, divine grace. I knew I could take a deep breath and just release it. All of it…my hopes…my fears…my shortcoming and imperfections…mistakes. I didn’t have to try and release it. There wasn’t a struggle, just a gentle letting go. I just did it. I relinquished them to the infinite universe to handle. I just simply placed her back into the universe’s hands. In doing so, in some strange way, I gave us both permission to make mistakes, to stumble around in the dark until we can find our way. But even more importantly, I gave us both permission to trust ourselves, to trust this mysterious and grand journey we both agreed to go on together. I gave us both our freedom back.
And so, we return to the photograph. Truthfully, it wasn’t this exact moment. I wasn’t snapping pictures when I watched her…when I really saw her. But when I did see her, it was in that tiny, infinitesimal moment that I was gifted peace, just a quiet peace of heart.
Sitting there, in the tall, bending grass, I thought to myself, “I mustn’t ever, ever forget.”
Audra Coleman lives in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. She is currently earning her MLAS while doing her best to raise a most beautiful and brave child.