I am standing in the middle of a field, in the middle of the mountains -I can’t quite see them through the mist, but I know they’re there; I can feel their presence- pushing my two-year-old daughter on the swing. This is how we spend our mornings, rain or shine.
We have already visited the “baby” goats -although they were born last spring, they will always be “babies” to my toddler- and fed them some pine needles. We have meandered near the chicken yard…and away…and back again; my daughter always in pursuit of the elusive hen-holding experience. We have visited the pigs, who greeted us with exuberance, as they always do, by trying to get onto their feet faster than their stubby bodies will allow them, slipping and spraying mud everywhere in the process, then running toward us expectantly. We have gone looking for the cows, but found the barn doors closed and unexpected friends between the fence posts.
And now we are where our mornings always lead us: swinging; the rhythm of the back and forth resounding through the silence, accompanied only by a few roosters announcing the day in the distance. My daughter has found her place in this movement. As an infant, she would only sleep in a wind-up swing, and since then we have logged hour after hour (day after day after week after month) of swinging. In her short time here on earth, she has yet to say she is finished. She has yet to ask to be let down.
For the past seven years this has also been my place; standing behind my children, supporting them as they move away from me, catching them as they return, giving them a slight push when they need it, making sure they don’t go too fast; a pillar in this ever moving world.
But no matter how solid I feel, I cannot forget that this motion will never cease. I will never be able to pause time – that wily devil; that catalyst of constant change (here is my youngest in front of me, nearly ready to flex her legs and soar on her own) – nor would I want to. As I stand here in the middle of this morning, an island surrounded by fog, I wonder where my next place will be.
If you had asked me twenty years ago to imagine myself now, at 36, I would have told you I was a writer. A recognized writer – a professor maybe – living somewhere wild near the ocean, surfing in my spare time, the owner of a beat-up Volvo and sailboat. But as I stand here now, the real 36 year old me, I realize what a long way I’ve strayed from that point. I’ve chosen a different geography; a different path; one that has led me away from the tempestuous and the solitary, and toward the domestic…the social. I’ve chosen a path that has led me here; to this moment; to this swing.
Where will the path lead from here?
Behind me I hear soft steps, and turn to see the young calf being taken for a walk by his caretaker, gently prodding him on occasion to remind him where they will go. His mother remains in the barn behind them, her head stretched out as if to follow, lowing ever so softly in his wake. Don’t worry Heather Bell, I think, he will be back soon, and before long you will cease to be concerned about his absence, until one day he is walking on his own, in a new field, on a new farm.
I turn back to take in the sight of my own daughter, her entire being momentarily aloft. Although they are still shrouded in a smokey haze, I can better see the buildings that have surrounded me all along: the elementary school that holds my older daughter safe and happy in one of its rooms, the rounded dome of the high-school roof, the kindergarten homestead in the distance. The fog lifts further – it’s dense cover dissipating into particles reflecting the sun’s rays outward over the now green field and throughout the sky. From the open windows of the school I hear the voices of the children as they begin singing. High voices, harmonious like the choir of angels recently fallen to earth.
And I know.
This. This dew drop glistening, this blade of green grass, this young mother cow calling softly to her only son, this rooster crowing, this color of sunlight muted by mist, this singing, this calling of children who are sprouting, growing, blooming from the seed that lives within them. This is my calling. This is where I am meant to be.