"God expects spiritual fruit, not religious nuts."Heading north on Highway 17, through the Middle Neck region of the state of my birth. It is a gray day, fog and mist making the world seem like the inside of a back lit oyster shell. The Wee Lass and I are on our way back to my adopted state of Maryland after a long weekend visiting with her grandparents in the southeast part of Virginia. She was sleeping when I drove past the sign with that quote on it. My chuckle didn't wake her up.
-Church sign, Highway 17, somewhere near Tappahannock, Virginia
I was dreaming, too, but wide awake and on matters entirely different from hers.
The gray gauze that wrapped the countryside made it a day fit for dreaming. The road was sparsely populated, and the car seemed a cocoon and not a machine. Long stretches of nacreous light with trees fading into view like ents or spirits. The quiet in the car led me to a long meditation on blood ties, family, God and what it means. We seemed less on the road than in space somewhere between the stars.
The road out there plays a bit of a sine wave with the Rappahannock River. It veers away, then close, but for a while you can always tell it is there. There are subtle shifts in light and vegetation that let you know the river exists. There is a presence of this long silver rope that has touched so many, given some a way of life, and many sustenance. The river exists and we flow along with it.
In my mind the river and my family were merging, becoming blurry, as I glanced in the rear view at my daughter sleeping; this visit was particularly important because my blessed mother has been ailing quite a bit in the past couple of months. There was scary episode (scary because it was life-threatening) last month, and there are complications because it happened on the heels of another serious condition which is still causing trouble. It has been the sort of trying times that would make anyone reach out and want to have close as much love as possible, because love is what keeps us afloat, sometimes, on this river we call life.
In that gray blanket of fog and humming tires I recalled the laughter of my daughter and my mother as they played together in the living room of the home of my youth. That laughter, and the banter, I could hear it as I was in the kitchen on Sunday making dinner for us. That laughter was a tonic, a salve to make a sore heart a soaring heart. It pushed back the great gray wall of melancholy that hovered just outside the limits of direct perception. I could hear the life that was flooding back into my mother's weary voice, see the smile on her face and know that the life I helped bring into this world would not have been possible without the life that brought me into this world.
The tires hummed. The mist swirled. My daughter slept, her angel face pressed up against the side of the booster seat. She may not have known, maybe did not understand the vitality she brought to her grandmother. But I did. I saw my future and my past come together in a brilliant Now, one that made my heart sing and throb to know that my family was blessed to be together, right then.
The gray sky and dripping trees passed by in a dreamy blur. I swallowed some tears and smiled. I had looked at my daughter and my mother, seeing joy on the faces of youth and wisdom. The taste of bittersweet candy rolled around in my mouth. There was a lightening of the sky as I came to understand that stories begin and stories end, but we are blessed to have stories to tell. This is a story, written in joy with the ink of Love upon our hearts. I looked out the window at the river just through the trees. I was convinced then that the world is not so gray a place as had I let myself believe, by the mighty silver river of love flowing through my heart.