SOMETHING SO EXCITING HAS HAPPENED! For me. My broken foot has healed to the point where I am allowed to take the orthopedic boot off from time to time. And in the house, I can move around on a lighter foot support called an air stirrup.
For 5 weeks I have been the person clomping along like Long John Silver. Ducks startle and fly when they hear me coming on the sidewalk around the neighborhood lake. Our pets tuck their tails safely underneath their prone bodies when I pegleg into a room.
I feel much freer now. But something funny has happened: when I take off the orthotic boot, you can see a dramatic difference in the thickness of each of my calves. (I will spare you this sight.) Helen and I are calling my new look chickenleg (the weak, atrophied one), and superleg (oh, yeah, the powerhouse). Don’t even make me kick you with superleg. 🙂
It is strange how much things change where you can’t see it happening.
For instance, Amos took on the job of reorganizing and cleaning the bookshelf next to the dinner table.
When I have the time and energy, I love this job. It’s like sorting your friends into catagories. Do you organize by type? By size? Alphabetically? By weight? How much can you get through before it becomes overwhelming and you have to take a nap?
I was away at church practicing while Amos worked, and when I got home I was astonished at the result – I could hardly recognize the books we had when the location of every single one had been changed. Even some of the covers looked different sitting between new shelfmates!
The change reveals things I thought I had (but don’t), and things I didn’t think I have (but do.)
In these last Texas days of spring rain before we arrive reluctantly at the punishing summer heat, I put the houseplants outside for a day. When we brought them back in, one had change to being home for a large stinkbug. She was enormous.
Wait, I must digress. Here is another example of change where you can’t see it: I have spent a lifetime defaulting to male pronouns, I think largely due to my age and the fundamentalist culture in which I was raised that elevates men above women. For most of my life I have referred anthropomorphically to every inanimate object, natural creature, and children’s toy as ‘he’; Mr. Mosquito, Mr. Cat, Mr. Mushroom, Mr. Slinky Dog, Mr. Houseplant. (And, I understand, anthropomorphic naming is crazy in and of itself, but in my defense I live and work with many children.) This default to male pronouns has been pointed out to me by none other than my own enlightened daughters. So now, if I have the chance to refer to something in a gendered way, I say ‘she’. On purpose. I am even trying occasionally to refer to God this way.
Back to the stinkbug.
Helen noticed her bowlegging across the window, and we agreed to allow it to live there in the kitchen window and not tell Amos. (Because then there would be screaming and running.)
Each morning the stinkbug would move to a different plant on the window, working methodically through her terrain-mapping work. About a week later Helen noted her dry carcass lying in the bottom groove of the window.
More change. The quiet death of insects. Mostly in unseen places.
I went to bed last night thinking about my foot and music and pandemic safely precautions, and woke up to news reports from Minnesota of fire and anger and people pulling at the civic fabric, fighting for justice. This is the type of thing that makes me feel helpless. Things had changed (or maybe not changed! maybe that is the very problem) while I slept and did not watch.
And finishing my own preparations for the day, I walked through the house, noting many sleeping forms and one alert middle-schooler awake and glued to a Simpsons episode on the gaming TV in the garage.
And Abbey was lying in her bed texting with tears in her eyes. Somehow in places where I cannot see the cautious and responsible oldest daughter is changing into a person training herself to fight for social justice.
I sit on the edge of the bed, careful with tea and orthotic boot and her long limbs entangled in the blanket I made for her while I was waiting 19 years ago for her to be born. She starts talking in a low voice about George Floyd (we honor him and say his name out loud) and angry tears fall. How can we be accepting things as white people that are denied to people of color? What can we do in the face of things that are widespread, that are systemic, that are so ridiculously, incredibly bad? How on earth can we be so safe and others be in such great danger?
“I am so tired of this. I’m angry that I can’t change it. I want to know what I could change that would make things be different.” Abbey says this to me. I have tears of my own; I mirror her frustration at our white privilege and the difficulty of knowing where to go and what to say. We are lucky to live in a neighborhood with as many people of color as white; I know these people are a blessing to me at the same time that I know their sons and daughters are apt to be treated in a way that mine will not. I would like to try to treat all these children as equals – sometimes their own acceptance and consistent behavior to each other is the best teacher for me.
We will both do the small things. The small things with as much great love as we can. Like Mother Teresa; we can do no great things; we can only do small things with great love. We will keep trying for the great love. And asking for things to change where we cannot see. Let that change we want to see be something that can start inside…