Together and Apart

Photo by U. S. Fish & Wildlife Services Headquarters

Photo by U. S. Fish & Wildlife Services Headquarters

New Readers: At the beginning of 2012, the author made a personal commitment to her health, her writing and her sanity: to walk first thing every morning, every day for the rest of her life. Sometimes it’s hard to wake up early enough.

I remember the feeling of being completely together with my children. Elbows sharp yet unknown inside of me, revealed when I finally held her on the outside of my belly, and recognized their shape with the intimacy of those last four crowded months. The feeling of a child hiccupping underneath my pubic bone, a steady, happy and reassuring tic. Hands fluttering, fluttering below my belly button, again so familiar to me after birth, in the way she held her hands curled up under her chin to sleep for the first three months of her life. His kicking and flailing familiar to me too, the way he can’t quite get enough space even now, wanting to be right next to me with his spiky knees and clawing hands.

I remember getting flushed and hot during sleep as a new mom, waking suddenly to wet sheets and hard, hot breasts; minutes later, the emerging mewl of a hungry infant woken by the smell of milk, which immediately tingles down to my nipples and begins to leak toward him. I remember the soundtrack in my mind as I fell asleep in the hospital, that first night ever as a mom, my subconscious reviewing all the sounds I’d heard him make so far, and might need to wake to hear again. Just the two of us that first night, resting and at peace in a dark, warm room, as if we had both reentered the womb of the world, but together.

Now, typing at my computer in the early morning, racing through the keyboard toward my morning walk, eager to be alone, eager to breathe the cold air. Music blotting the sounds of my house, yet still I can hear the pad pad of Five’s feet as he pauses in the kitchen door, then heads back to his room snuffling and crying, afraid he’ll get in trouble for disturbing me, knowing it’s not yet “wake-up time,” wanting his father who will be with him at any time of day or night, wanting his mother who not for reason but injury, cannot do this.

Now, saving the words, removing the earbuds, embracing my son still warm from his fuzzy blankets, inviting him to walk with me, surprised when he says yes. Surprised when he gets dressed in clothes appropriate for the weather without protest, surprised when he pees into the toilet as his bladder requires, surprised when he accepts the apple he’ll need for energy, surprised when he chooses to walk instead of being pushed in the big stroller. And so we walk.

It is not a school day and I am in no hurry. When his hands get cold and sticky from the apple’s juice, I teach him how to lick his fingers and then dry his hands on his sweatshirt. I help his floppy fingers into his gloves, a task they know nothing about and leave entirely to me. I warm his hands, breathing through the knit fabric, my mouth right against the fuzzy grey, rubbing until they are warm.

He complains of nothing this morning. He looks up when I point out birdsong to find the crows, he pauses in front of the bird tree, that one tree in the neighborhood that seems home to every finch and flitter. He chooses to make the extra loop at the top of the hill to pass the redwoods where sometimes one can meet an owl. At the end of the loop he asks me to show him exactly where we stood to decide how far to go, so that he can show me the light on the hills he noticed. I’m startled to realize he had been looking at a different hill, had picked a different view to admire, feel honored to be shown what he saw. And throughout the walk we hear the pair of peregrine falcons calling to each other, once even spot them in the distance flying from the top of one eucalyptus tree to another.

So the next day, walking alone this time, I stop suddenly when I see the shadowed silhouette of a raptor on the telephone line. I know it is the same, I’ve seen it here before, on this very street. I step closer, cautiously, wanting to study it, to know it, to be able to name it more accurately for my son. I can see its flecked breast, white with brown spots, and its barred tail. One step closer, and suddenly hear the calm descending call from a second bird, like the call Gabriel and I had heard on the walk, but without the echo of the sky in it. A raptor’s short chirp, from the undetected bird, higher up on the top of the adjacent pole. A warning call from the lookout bird to its partner. Both birds had seen me, of course, but the highest bird still performed its duty, perhaps making an amused remark to its partner about the curious human. Tears flush my eyes at the trust and dependence implied in this partnership, at the closeness of such beauty, at these birds that belong to themselves, and also to me, with their aloofness and everpresence.

Image from Google Images: Please contact me regarding any copyright infringement.

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