I’m walking to work across a small valley where a river used to flow. Ahead of me, my shadow stretches over the sidewalk, dials toward the frost-tipped grass, and I’m clearing my head, I am, and the sun warms the back of my neck, and to the west, over the hill that settlers and their schooners used to crest, I know the moon has finally disappeared, the moon that just swung so close to us, and last night I told my sons that the next time it comes this close we will be older and life will be different and yet we can still remember, and I think of them, think of us all spinning on this earth as I walk. I try to clear my head.
But I remember yesterday, talking about this week with some wiser neighbors, hearing one of them say, “You know, I thought the world was ending when Reagan was elected.” And I said, “I’m looking for some small hope here, so it’s good to hear that this isn’t the end of the world.” I want to tell myself things aren’t that bad, that this is all mere panic and hyperbole. “But” she said, “you know, Reagan refused to confront the AIDS crisis, refused to even acknowledge the reality of it, and my friends died because of it. For them, it was the end of the world.”
So I try yoga. I’m down dog, I do my vinyasa. My teacher puts pressure on my tense shoulders, encourages my exhale. I sink in. For a moment, there it is, beneath the waves and ripples, a deeper undercurrent. I forget this, I forget I have access to such a thing. Too much time spent like a pair of gulls fighting over a fish midair, forgetting once again this ability to dive, discover, rise up, emerge. Sweat drips, salt of the sea on my tongue. I give thanks. I recognize God.
Then I’m texting my mother’s family. A distant cousin half way across the globe has publicly insulted my grandfather’s memory, he has bent my grandfather’s image into Exhibit A of what he believes is wrong with America. He is telling the truth or a lie, depending on whom you ask. My family wants me to de-friend, disconnect, and disown this cousin—family first, except when it isn’t. My family says this isn’t about politics, and I agree. My family doesn’t understand what they are asking, what they have done, forgive them, forgive me, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing either.
I sit in a chapel. I no longer know how to pray. I pray, I think, I pray I think. I look to the stained-glass image of the man who somehow both tethers and tosses my life, the man who sent the wealthy away disappointed, the man who turned down the chance to wield power, the man they say rose again and will rise again and will keep on rising and we all shall rise alongside, the man who said the sparrows, the lilies, the least of these, and where are they, who are they? I think I pray.
Somewhere upstream, women with ancient memories protect my water with their lives. Somewhere downstream, our great river spills into a dead zone. To the east, forest fires. To the south, earth quakes. To the west, disappearing aquifers. To the north, poisoned children. In Leavenworth a friend tries to maintain hope while sitting in the cell of a private prison whose stocks are now rising. In Costa Rica another friend misses her family but can’t abide being dark-skinned in America right now. All around me, everywhere, identities divide.
I’m in my office now. I work. I plan. I think, I pray, I breathe, I work. Beyond my window the sun illuminates a field where a sycamore slowly goes dormant. Both a rising and a falling at once, inhale and exhale. It is true that our sun will one day go black. It is also true the sycamore will stretch higher in the sky next spring and break into green again. A few blocks south, across that ancient river valley, my newborn daughter rests easily, drinks deeply, wakes slowly, and learns to conserve her energy for when it is needed most. She already knows what it means to fight for her life.