The woman sitting near me is a mother. I know because she is carrying a child with beautiful dark eyes. The eyes are all I can see.
Tiny hands wrap around mother’s waist. Tiny toes spread as far as they can, brushing against each other in their suspension.
This gaze somehow haunts me. Burqa baby’s eyes don’t return my smile and her hands do not return my wave. I am the other. This mother is engrossed in her doings: screen, journal, computer. She doesn’t see me staring – or even snapping a photo. I hesitate and then, secretly, I reach over to touch these tiny pink toes. Just to offer a moment of touch.
Are we so engaged in our media, entranced by it’s siren song, that we carry our children like packages on our backs? Do we know we are denying them interaction with their world while we enjoy artificial interaction in our own?
I look at the branch as it curls upward, or does it curl downward? Wait, that is its reflection. The bent and twisted branch arches and bends, its sprouts excursioning just a bit and one just like it follows suit, its mirror image. Still water does this. It makes a fool of you. Were I not so clever, I might reach for the wrong branch.
Were I not so clever.
But that branch below, so very near the surface, must see its fellow above. Unless there are ripples or wind or waves, unless the bright sun blinds it or silt buries it, that lake-locked branch must think it’s the real branch. In the stillness it might wonder at that impostor who dares to look down and mock him. Surely, he, there under the water is the real branch. Weighty, yes, damp, yes, sometimes dark and lonely and tumultuous. Real must fend for his life while that sunny, dim and oddly dimensional branch goes missing every time.
On this still day, in these still waters, when the sun is low on the horizon, does that watery branch wonder at his fickle image above? If I came up out of the water, arose and shook off the weight that presses me down, what might I be? Is life as I know it not all of life? Is there more above the surface? Is that other branch real? Could it be even more real than I am?
Perhaps heaven is like that. We think the murk and mud and tumult we are under is real but we get a glimpse – in the stillest moments – of something that mirrors our existence. Maybe, if we were just pulled from under the water, lifted above the abyss, we would see that it is real. Brighter, broader, fuller in dimension and grander in color, it would be the glorious real we thought we were all along.
We are but a dim reflection, indistinguishable by the naked eye. It is such a human mistake to be taken in by such an optical illusion. Only in perfect stillness, at rising and setting of sun, do we glimpse real. Fully real.
Funny things happen when you sit in stillness and look from the lake shore. Which branch am I?
The Lake and I played today.
We played peek-a-boo.
We played hide and seek.
We played with crayons, mostly orange.
We played red light, green light.
We played follow the leader.
Which started me singing. Step by step, you lead me. I will follow you all of my days. So touched, was I by this Mom who peeked out from the bushes and, seeing only me, thought it safe to cross. She shuttled the brood – mostly grown – out ahead of her, and then sidled past to lead them down the grassy hill to the stream below.
I am that mother.
Across the planks of that wooden walkway I jogged and sang in her honor until entering the path through the wrought-iron gate marked, “Asbury Trail.” I slowed, and stepped, and looked to the Lake.
There it was, playing. Reflecting the arch of a blackened branch. How lovely, but really not remarkable, but for its moment. It became the still waters of psalmists, long gone and modern day. This moment.
A graying man walking toward me, his little furry friend on a leash, smiled in my direction. I, feeling sheepish because he had first looked to where I was aimed and snapping a photo. Nothing remarkable about that spot or that shot his eyes said. I know, I wanted to say. Just illustrating a psalm here. Having a private conversation in this amphitheater filled with years and tears spent in weathered times, hope and peace, gathered in all times.
I’ve written a book, can you illustrate it for me? the Lake had begged. I obliged. But it was not the Lake who asked. It was the lake’s Keeper.
I’ve written a book, can you illustrate it for me? whispered the Keeper. Not with camera or crayons, simpler still. I want you to illustrate my book. You be the artist for my clay.
I rounded the bend and traversed the goose-poop-laden asphalt of the parking lot. I hurdled and jumped, hopped and cut right and left, till I stood face to face with the Lake. That psalm still churning.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Cup overflows…cup overflows… I’m stuck on cup overflows.
The Lake and I played today.