In our fifteen years of marriage, Amber and I have moved more than migratory birds. I’ve written about this before, just two months ago. What’s more, at the time I penned those words about home, I had no plans of moving again. But humans are creatures of habit, and our habit–so it seems–is to get the seven-month moving itch. And when that itch sets in, we scratch it.
All animals scratch their itches, see.
These facts being the facts, it should come as no surprise that we’ve moved again. Amber’s mental yarn was beginning to unwind; the circus of raising four boys in a house the size of a shoebox had done her in. We’d had plans to expand the little house on the little farm from day one, but when would we break ground? Who knew? So, on an average Thursday in late July she called me saying both she and the boys needed a touch more space. “Boys need to run,” she pleaded on the phone before sending me a country listing. “There’s a pond.”
Her voice quivered, tinny as a guitar string strung too tight, and she said, “I’m going to look at it.” She wasn’t so much asking for permission as making a declaration, and if you know Amber, you know this about her—you can’t shake Amber free of an idea once she’s made a declaration. She visited the house, fell in love, and four weeks later, the boxes were moving out of one place and into another.
To be fair, there are other factors precipitating the move—factors into which we need not delve. All factors aside, on August 28th, I walked into my new home, the house with the pond in the woods.
It’s quiet out here. It’s so quiet, in fact, that if you bow your heads and close your eyes, you can hear the cricket prayers in the early morning. It’s quiet enough to hear the hum of the Milky Way, and if that’s hyperbolic, it’s at least dark enough to see the cloudy glow stretching across the night sky. The moon peeks over the ridge in the late evening, reflects in the glassy pond while I walk the dogs. It’s just the two of us–the moon-man and me–and we listen to the cricket prayers, the Milky Way’s song, and the tiny clink of dog tags as my pups search for a place to relieve themselves.
Amber’s taken to calling our pond “Whisper Pond.” She tells the boys this as they string up rods and reels. “If you run around the pond screaming, you’ll scare the fish away, not to mention the peace.” It’s a pragmatic statement, but this all about pragmatism. Amber is teaching them, in her own way, about sacred space, the spaces where God hides under rocks or in the boughs.
On Tuesday, I walked to the pond with the boys, only a stone’s throw from the back door, and I watched as they dropped lines into the water. I fingered a set of prayer beads in my pocket, but I didn’t pray a word. No Our Fathers. No Jesus Prayer. No I Just Pray You’ds. I just ran my fingers over the tiny polished orbs and watched as Isaac worked a jig through the water. Watching your boys is its own form of prayer, I think.
Ike worked his rod—reel, reel, reel, twitch—and just when he’d nearly played his lure to the bank, there was a great thrashing of water and his rod tip bowed. He whooped—so much for Whisper Pond—and said, “Daddy this is a whale!”
“Don’t lose your cool,” I warned. “Work it; keep the tension.”
He worked like a seasoned angler, like one who’d grown up on the water and I marveled at his instincts with a rod in his hand. He’s good at this, maybe a born fisherman, maybe a distant relative of Glaucus. He worked his catch back to the shore, landed it, and lipped it. And if I were an Arkansan with a penchant for litotes, I’d put it like this—this weren’t no small fish.
Each of the boys followed suit, laying a line across the water with varying degrees of skill. They’re learning the great art of boyhood here at Whisper Pond, even as I’m recovering my own sense of it. Every catch resulted in a whisper-shattering whoop and holler, first from them, then from me.
We’re home here in the woods. We’re home with our pond, our crickets, our stars, and the velvet blanket of evening quiet. , and this time I telling Amber this:
***TINY LETTER AND COMING CLEAN***
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