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Baptism

A man at the gym asked me what my plans were for the weekend.
 
“Camping,” I said. “And swimming in fresh water.” What bliss! “It’s been my one goal for the summer. Lakes. Swim in lakes.”
 
“Not a fan of the beach, huh?”
 
This stopped me. I shrugged. Who doesn’t like the beach?
 
“No, it’s not that.” I put my hand on my heart and leaned in. “It’s just about going towards what I love.”
 
“Oh.” The stranger at the gym began to focus with great intensity on tying his shoes.
 
Does it sound odd? “Move towards what you love.” Maybe it is awkward to say such a thing during a casual exchange, but I don’t know how else to give it voice. A person don’t need to dislike wineries or shopping or baking to find herself doing less of these things. It’s only because she learns that her joy is in rock climbing, playing mandolin, or growing basil on her patio. Letting go of half-pleasures is a necessary cost of orienting towards bliss.
 
For years, I have believed a rich life is a varied life. “Balance,” say The Many, “is the key to wellness.”
 
What if balance is trickier than we think? Maybe we are simply excusing our piecemeal approaches to entertaining our fragmented selves. What if we know our purpose, our rightness, is in this small assortment of things here, and the more we do them fully, and the more we do them with our whole attention, the richer the flavor of our lives?
 
What if less variety, not more, is the secret spice?
 
Certainly, engaged citizenship requires baseline familiarity with a broad array of topics that affect our shared residency on this planet. Scan the headlines, visit a museum, serve someone in need, and learn a craft. Also, though, have the courage to choose. This one gift is my calling. Or maybe,This slim collection of activities are the homes of my true Yes.
 
To follow that call can be so very scary. What if I am wrong? What if I am no good? What if I fail to attend to all these other toys and creatures clamoring for my attention and I miss something big?
 
I can only say this: To know your love is a precious thing. It is the rarest treasure, and you have to dive, over and over, into those suffocating sea-caves without anybody pointing the way. Sometimes you can only see a glint of it and the closer you get, the darker it seems. You have to believe yes, it is gold, when all around people are hinting that you are a fool and all your plunder is rust.
 
Your hands begin to wander back to the mundane entertainments. Your mind whispers that it would rather be at ease with simple tasks than faced with the raw tenderness of its own unfurling.
 
By all means, avoid the call. It’s okay. Your avoidance will not last long.
 
Once you know, once you have spoken that truth aloud backward and down into your own belly, there is no turning back.
 
Then the TV is no longer a foe, the bottle has no allure, the 270 “friends” and their carbonated noise up on the surface of the earth are rendered silent. You no longer need to retreat from the things you believed were holding you back, and you do not need to name what you do not like. Instead, you emerge towards your own self becoming.
 
You lower your thirsty body into the cool waters. You know you have arrived.
 
Move towards what you love. What you leave behind cannot break your heart, because your heart is only just now being born.
 

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In Bed with Book

The bed needed a new orientation. Mildew had flowered on the window panes. Stink bugs had built their incubators and mausoleums in the corners of the wells. All of that had to go. Vacuum and cloth, then clean linens, then the pillowcases with the dragonflies and tiny birds in butter yellow, in the green of ferns.

Now, the head of the bed is to the wall under the cascade of family photographs. Its foot is closer to the windows. The wintry morning light, low in the east, falls through the sheer curtains and rouses me to meet the day.

It is a fine thing to nestle into a heap of feathers and foam, to unfurl the tucked wings of a story. A whole sack of gold is nothing compared to a long moment’s gaze out at a hazy day. Up above, four sepia 8×10’s in their mismatched frames keep a gentle watch. Grandfather, grandmother, father, mother. Such smiles on those faces! And each of them, so young, so very bright.

Now, as before, we share a name.

For eighteen months, I kept them near my feet. Their gazes were unsettling. Their judgment, subtle. In another time and place, I would have stayed. They all did.

When the bed found its new direction, something else slid with a whisper into its proper alignment. From this place, their smiles are guileless. Patient. Even kind. I have stopped looking at them now that they linger above my tousled cocoon. Their presence is still palpable, but less worrying. They are in the place I don’t let my gaze linger: back, behind.

Here, just flesh, just bed. I settle the weight of my 38 years into the embrace of the day as it begins to stir. I feel the give and accept the invitation. My eyes drink in the quiet light, the quilt warming my skin, and the page as it breathes awake, opening in my lap.