I’m not sure I thought it was so beautiful, when I walked alongside Hugo’s field behind our house. But the song Mr. Iverson taught us at Washington Elementary said so, “Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…” Neither had lied to me before, so I Iooked long and hopeful, as my sunburned legs brushed against the amber.
I was yet to see the ocean, but for in books. And in those books they spoke of the tide. The magical way it rolled out, rolled back in…and some said, within this magic, you could let go of all your worries, your problems, and the waves would take them out to sea, and return to you, free from them all, freeing you as well.
I was in need of some of that freedom. I walked as closely to the field as I could. Hugo didn’t want us inside. I imagined it was so we didn’t trample on the magic. That made sense. I only let it brush against me. Praying it was enough to latch on. Praying the wind could make the grain actually wave. Praying it could take away the noise of our house. The argument shook walls that creaked late into the night. The noises that worked themselves into fear and then, as if to taunt, lay deep inside my muscles.
I didn’t know how big an ocean was. Was it bigger than Hugo’s field? I could see across it. Maybe it wasn’t big enough. Maybe it wasn’t even real, but I kept walking. I continued my solo prayer. To say the words out loud seemed too dangerous. As if these words might be the final noise to break the last board holding our fragile house together. I walked and whispered.
We moved from VanDyke Road. I like to believe it was the wave that carried us. Again. And again. From the gravel to the tar. The field to the city. From the noise of fear to the sound of possibility. To Lake Michigan. Then the oceans, Atlantic and Pacific. Then across the sea.
Yesterday, I was readying for my afternoon walk, in France. Ear buds. iPhone. Tennis shoes. I am not proud to say that my thighs were heavy with something that was best let go. It can still happen. Then it nudged me – a tiny wave perhaps – and I reached for the book of poetry next to my phone. I read the lines in French. Could that be right? Did I have the French words right in my head?
“Où même les roseaux répétaient leurs prières
Que reprenaient de plus plus fort et plus loin les oiseaux”
I went to the translation poem.
“Where even the reeds repeated their prayers
Which the birds took up louder and farther on”
I smiled. The magic was real. Had been real all along. I walked lighter in the afternoon wave.
When I got back home, I decided to paint this little bird. A little bird that carried my prayer of only this — thank you.
“Thank you.” Up it went, and farther on, into the oh, so beautiful, spacious skies.