I nearly missed their beauty, walking by them quickly first before making the conscious decision to turn back. Before making the conscious decision to stand quietly looking for simple, untouched beauty on this ‘first-of-many’, warm autumn day. I stood for that brief moment at the guardrail- connected to the ducks in presence only. There were five of them swimming in formation in the shallow waters of the inlet. Swimming where the river lazily makes its winding way through meadows and marshlands lined with cattails and long, wavy grasses- to where it will gently widen and join the river proper. The five were headed away from the bridge where I stood. But an innate sense of knowing made them suddenly take flight. First swooping in one direction and then the other before landing out of my range of sight. Landing softly to swim again without the introspective eye keeping watch.
Birds are like that. Flighty. Capricious, if you will. They never know who to trust.
I am feeling a bit of the same. I write extensively about love, ethics of care, hope and kindness. But lately, I am finding I am challenged by this writing insomuch as I feel that showing love is easier said than done. I feel slightly inconsistent with what I ‘preach’ for I am not one who easily trusts. Who easily gives her love away. Not one who easily gives in to love neither, nor one who gives way to the generosity of spirit that love affords.
Under the watchful eye of those around me, I would take flight rather than stay and expose my weakness. So here I am tonight. A fragile being open to vulnerability. Examining her weakness and limitations.
A sitting duck.
I choose to write about love largely because it fascinates me. But beyond that, I feel my limited ability to express love, while falling short at times only to give way to being generously giving at others, is not lived to its full potential. So perhaps I am fascinated with love because of my perceived limitation. Perhaps it is what I feel is my greatest challenge: to love unconditionally. In my defense, I am in possession of a very tender heart and compassionate soul by nature, the endowment of my gracious Creator. I am Woman who can emote easily and express her feelings. Woman who can convey love as evidenced in the overwhelming sense of care I feel for those most precious to me. But the sheer physicality of showing love- demonstrating it to those same beloved leaves me at times in a panic. Leaves me wanting.
I often have to walk myself through the desired and expected responses, telling myself what to do and how to do it. As if I were alien to the languages of human love. This fact of my life intrigues me.
It is not that love eludes me. I have a very sensitive Husband and four loving children. I am the daughter of two loving parents, one of whom has been a kindred spirit to me for over half my life. Added to this, many people I am connected to who I love and whom I have a sense that they love me too. But in experiencing love, I sometimes wonder: do I truly know what this feels like? Do I really know how to show love? Receive love? Express love? Offer love? Understand love?
And why the pull to know about love and its subtle nuances anyway? Why is love the consuming influence in my life and writing?
Culturally, we are in a time when love is a consumable. A thing to use and throw away. When the love grows cold, let the fire burn to embers. And then start a new fire somewhere else. Even familial love is expendable. Why love if it has nothing to benefit me?
But love is more than this and in our heart of hearts we know: love’s promise offers us hope to be strong in the face of adversity, joyful in light of fearful circumstances, compassionate in spite of offense. Love transcends. And it calls us to stay and be who we are, vulnerable and defenceless at times, so that we can first offer ourselves fully. Being present with the experience of the moment. Understanding then the value of the gift we are being offered so that we can then receive it fully and know that what we’ve been given is a treasure. A gift not to be taken for granted or lightly perceived, but something to be valued.
When I walk back again toward home, the ducks are still in hiding down along. I glance, but don’t take the time to ruminate. For I am no longer wistfully looking for them to return. Instead, I fix my eyes on the horizon and see within my sights the familiarity of a country road that leads my heart toward home.
And I press on.