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  • Patty Ihm

Still

“You could come to California.”

For a second, my feet sunk into the hot sand on Venice Beach and the rhythm of the waves threatened to pull me under, into the forbidden reverie.

“If only…”

It seemed as if I had just been there, but months had already passed since our idyllic late summer getaway.

Through my tears and the setting sun, the drive west from the airport was challenging. The sky distracted me: sharp blue penetrated pink, white, and orange to further obscure the formations which seemed angry yet somehow serene at the same time.

It had been a good, quiet holiday, but the plane took him back a day earlier than we had expected. We didn’t know he was going to leave just then. Maybe it was best that way, to be unaware. After all, I don’t want them to go.

If the sun is shining, there is a good chance that the chickens will come out of the coop, a least for long enough to discover that winter’s icy blanket is an unwelcome barrier to the day’s plans for foraging.

Five days in Maine was a perfect honeymoon.

It seemed as if I had just been there, leaving the hotel so early to board the plane on that May morning nearly twenty-eight years ago, hand in hand with my love, to uncover the first stones to our future.

It was cold enough for a jacket, and the breeze was mighty. When we stood upon the rocks at the edge of the water and looked far away toward the skyline, a lighthouse rose stoic and strong through the misty gray mid-morning.

Perhaps I should have been more aware. Maybe I should have paid better attention. Still I am not there, even through the trials and promises. We didn’t know it was going to be so hard.

I didn’t know the strength of the wind until I turned around and it had ceased to blow.

It has been unimaginably cold this winter. My thirteen chickens perch together in their collective down coat, closed in the coop well before each sunset. It’s a rare day that I gather two eggs. They are waiting, in the stillness of their own company, for the days to turn.

I am waiting, too. I am waiting for the moments to become hours and then days. I am waiting for the Lenten rose to bloom, for the herald of spring, for the chance to keep my promises.

And if you are here to keep me company, to give me hope, to carry me through the darkest hours, I will hear you, and I will know.

I didn’t know how much I had missed you until you came back.

We don’t know the depths of our love until it is very, very quiet.

In the space of time where there is nothing…no movement, no voice, no light…the thoughts will carry meaning to me, and I will try to understand.

There will be another morning, perhaps unbearably cold, where I will bring water to the chickens, where I will make sure my little son has an extra pair of mittens in his school bag, where I will try to find what has gone.

It’s not my footprint in the California sand, but the track of an adventurous chicken in the aftermath of yet another Northern Illinois snowfall. And in the stillness of today, much is revealed, and much is good.

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