by Jennifer on June 7, 2008

Last night, the four of us went swimming at one of our neighborhood pools. Evening is my favorite time for that. There are usually just a handful of others using the pool, and by the time we leave, we sometimes have it all to ourselves. A bonus is that no one needs sunscreen.

The pool sits high on a hill, with a view of the valley and the city lights of Phoenix. When we get there in time, it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset. Last night, the sky was already dark, and a curve of moon, not quite new, leaned against the sky to the west.

The kids jumped in right away, and their squeals of laughter echoed in that way that sound does when it bounces off water, how it sounds both empty and full. We played a spirited game of tag, in which I was reminded just how tricky and smart my kids can be. We kicked around and treaded water and swam a few strokes. Waited for the next cannonball from Boy.

It’s been a long week. Plans have shifted and stirred up new concerns. I was tired from it all, from weighing things. From wondering what is the right thing for us, and rearranging plans in my head in order to accommodate different possibilities. Even though there’s no bad choice to make, we have to consider the lifestyle and financial ramifications of the options. Enough already, right? Just decide! you say? And I agree. (I think we have. Fingers crossed.)

Rilke said to “love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.” But what about the times when it all feels like questions? When I yearn for certainty? I used to like the unknown, the unplanned, the what-may-be. And I suppose I still flirt with it and give it my number sometimes. But while I know that nothing is certain and we can’t know what will happen one day to the next, I’ve been feeling that, for once, it would be nice to feel like a pioneer driving a stake into a parcel of land. To say, “Here. This is my place.”

So to be almost sure of what we’re going to do feels like (at the least) I’ve got the stake raised above me, ready to drive it into place.

But guess what? I let that all go last night. A whole hour or two unspooled without those worries invading my mind.

After we swam for a while, I asked Mr. H to keep an eye on both of the kids and went off by myself.

I lay back in the water, relaxed and weightless. Above me, the Big Dipper scooped its share of the sky. Birds (swallows, I think) swept through the air, dining on the bugs that were drawn to the lights around the pool. The moon sank by small degrees toward the horizon. I decided that my troubles could just fit into the curve of it, so I settled them there and watched the moon fall beneath the roof line.

For long minutes, I floated, looking at the sky. It’s something I don’t do enough, not at night. Our days here are like banners of blue (as long as you don’t look toward the fuzzy cloud of smog that hangs over downtown). And at night, we’re far enough out that we can see a decent batch of stars. The sky isn’t crowded with them, but we can find the constellations easily enough, and even see the brightest meteors when they come along.

If you want to know how I feel about the moon and the night sky, here’s a clue. On my right hand I wear a Jeanine Payer ring. Her jewelry is engraved with quotes, and I had my ring engraved to read:

Watching the moon at midnight, solitary, mid-sky, I knew myself completely, no part left out. –Izumi Shikubu

They are simple words, and true. True for me, at least. I’ve always gone weak-kneed at the come-ons of blinking stars and a slow moonrise, though my true love is a moonset.

So maybe I’m a liar, after all. As much as I cry after wanting roots, my soul seems to sing for things that are suspended, for things that orbit the planet or shoot through the sky. For birds that swoop and feast in midair. For the feeling of floating, as though the next current could change things.

Those feelings are self-indulgent and not the least bit practical. I know it. They’re a splurge, and I know that, too. But they cost nothing, and there’s no show-off to them at all. If I didn’t write this down just now, it would never come up in a conversation between us, these prizes I take for myself. (We all have things like that, small joys that seem too much, our naked hunger for beauty too embarrassing when said out loud.) But there’s enough for everyone when we keep it simple. When all it takes is to step outside and to let the sky take over.

Maybe all I need is a tether. A long bright shiny thread that holds me to my place and lets me wander as far as I need to, with the sound of my children’s laughter as my compass. I’ll plant the stake and tie myself to it, with lots of slack. Our roots will sink deep.

When I need to feel light, I will step outside. But I won’t go far, I think. I won’t need to.

Not when there are moments like last night. Not when I can find a way to float.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

manager mom June 7, 2008 at 2:06 pm

what a lovely quote… I love looking at the moon with my kids…

manager moms last blog post..Carnal Memories

Lisa Milton June 7, 2008 at 2:25 pm

So glad you were able to slip away. (It’s 50 degrees and raining; we aren’t quite ready for the pool yet.)

I’m in that crazy loose land too, knowing we will move, but not knowing how and when exactly.

More questions than answers. But it’s nice when you have a reprieve from it all.

(Beautiful quote too.)

flutter June 7, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Only in AZ can you float quietly at night in a pool and watch the moonshine, without freezing to death.

You and I need to go have wine.

flutters last blog post..Tea Party

Jenn @ Juggling Life June 7, 2008 at 3:13 pm

This was beautiful. Can’t wait to hear what you decide.

Jenn @ Juggling Lifes last blog post..Overheard Around The Ranch

tysdaddy June 7, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Jesus, I don’t even know how to begin to tell you all that I love about this post. It’s packed with nuance and yet so centered. I’m . . . speechless.

tysdaddys last blog post..Home (freewriting 1.14)

D / Momma June 7, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Oh Jennifer – I love this passage…

“I lay back in the water, relaxed and weightless. Above me, the Big Dipper scooped its share of the sky. Birds (swallows, I think) swept through the air, dining on the bugs that were drawn to the lights around the pool. The moon sank by small degrees toward the horizon. I decided that my troubles could just fit into the curve of it, so I settled them there and watched the moon sink beneath the roof line.”

Simply elegant…
Peace – D

D / Mommas last blog post..There Once was a Girl…

brenda June 7, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Will you forgive me for being glib? Maybe you should move to the moon, or at least the International Space Station!

OK, seriously, due to new sleeping arrangements in my house (the girls are now sharing a room), we were wakened at 11 p.m. last night. Thoroughly. (That means I did not go back to sleep until after 1 a.m.) So I watched the same moon. It set by 11:30, but it was enchanting. And I’ll agree about the moonset with a sliver of a moon. After the moon was gone, the big dipper was the enormous thing in the sky that caught my attention. (I’m amazed at how clearly we can see stars here. Must be the altitude.)

So when I read this, I realized that we unknowingly shared a floating moment last night, although for quite different reasons. (And I was only floating in my mind. How nice it would have been in the pool, which I’m sure is the one I’ve visited.)

The only other thing I can say is that your imagery in this post is rich. Too rich to give adequate comment. Beautiful is the only word that comes to my head, but it isn’t enough.

Manic Mommy June 7, 2008 at 6:24 pm

I love looking up into the night sky, I love time alone, I love floating, I love swimming at night.

Good for you for remembering to take care of yourself. Please teach me how.

Manic Mommys last blog post..Really Random Stuff

Ree June 7, 2008 at 6:25 pm

You’ve hit it for me. I need a tether.

Rees last blog post..Friday Haiku – Summer Arrives

Tina June 7, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Beautiful…I used to love visiting the pool at night – something about floating in the swirly blue light with the moon casting tree shadows around. Thanks for bringing back a lovely memory…it’s been a rough week and your post was very calming.

Tinas last blog post..Good Night Nurse!

Madge June 7, 2008 at 7:42 pm

i’m so glad you are writing……

this is just beautiful.

also, i’m sorry, but the image of you with one of those little kiddie leashes on came to me when i read the part about being tethered…. i know. i’m a bad person.

Madges last blog post..Housekeeping

anymommy June 7, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Lovely. Eloquent. Thanks for sharing this.

anymommys last blog post..To My Sister’s Gorgeous, Clueless Friends

dragonfly June 7, 2008 at 9:11 pm

Beautiful. I’ve always been enchanted by the night sky. My longest-lasting dream is that I’ll someday be able to travel in space. Not likely, I know…but I can still dream. πŸ™‚

dragonflys last blog post..to my beautiful boy:

Rhea June 7, 2008 at 9:53 pm

What a lovely, almost poetic post! I haven’t gone swimming at night in such a long time. I love your ring and moon quote.

Rheas last blog post..Hangin’ in the shade -Camera Critters

ByJane June 7, 2008 at 9:54 pm

ahhhhhhhhhhhh, lovely…

ByJanes last blog post..It’s the witching hour….

Mrs. G. June 7, 2008 at 10:34 pm

My favorite post of yours I’ve read. I want to go swimming by the light of the moon. If only it would quit raining here in Seattle.

Mrs. G.s last blog post..OK Then

we_be_toys June 7, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Oh yeah, you were “Nightswimming”! I can almost feel you floating on the water, dreaming under the moon. I love that feeling!

we_be_toyss last blog post..Because I’m The Greatest

Dave June 8, 2008 at 5:40 am

I happen to have Patti Smith’s CD “Gung Ho” in my truck these days. Your post reminded me of her song “Grateful.” Check out the lyrics sometime. : )

Daves last blog post..A virtual slug fest…

Milena June 8, 2008 at 6:50 am

β€œIt gives you life, but you can’t hold on to it. You can’t breathe indefinitely. We need to surrender to the fact that all efforts at permanence are hopeless. No structure we can build will protect us from the contingencies of life. But in the midst of that impermanence is the incredible gift of life.”


I tried to write something but this seemed more appropriate than my own words. Beautiful post. Starting to believe that beautiful is a word I will associate always with your writing.

natalie June 8, 2008 at 12:39 pm

man! you are a writer! so good. a moonlit walk on a beach and laying on the roof looking at the stars are both on my short list of things to do one day!

natalies last blog post..Meme…hee hee…

Daryl June 8, 2008 at 12:44 pm

For our anniversary a few years ago Husband gave me a necklace of Janine’s which he refers to as the fishing lure .. because of the little ‘bead’ that is engraved: who so loves believes the impossible.

I am so envious of your floating in the water .. communing with the skies .. stars .. and your own spirit


Daryls last blog post..

Jan June 8, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Thanks for the head getaway that you seemed to produce for me. I loved it.

What a heavenly setting with the family. I just think it sounds just like a memorable experience for you all.

You are a wonderful writer.

Jans last blog post..This Garden

Landon June 8, 2008 at 1:35 pm

This post reminded me of one of my favorite REM songs, “Night Swimming.” Have you heard it?

Beautiful imagery, my friend. Just lovely.

Franki June 8, 2008 at 1:42 pm

There was a movie about Beethoven (Immortal Beloved?) in which he escapes his house in the middle of the night to avoid his abusive father. He goes to a pond and floats face up looking at the sky. The pond reflects the starry night and as the camera zooms out, Beethoven becomes part of the sky and then the universe, all to . That scene took my breathe away.

Ahhh….I’ve found it!


God love YouTube.

Frankis last blog post..Dear Bread Companies that Double-Wrap their Breads so that I have to Use a Steak Knife to Break into your Packaging so I can Make a Sandwich,

Betsy Bird June 8, 2008 at 3:20 pm

A lovely post.

Betsy Birds last blog post..Me and My Friend John

JCK June 8, 2008 at 5:15 pm

I felt like I was floating along with you. Love the tether image -long enough not to be tied down, yet still have contact. Sounds lovely

I, myself, am partial to full moons – the harvest moon, especially.

JCKs last blog post..The writing dream

Jenny,Bloggess June 8, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Beautiful. Just perfect and beautiful.

Jenny,Bloggesss last blog post..Lipo-poison

Nap Warden June 8, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Wow, you really are an amazing writer! I can’t wait to hear what you decide…

Nap Wardens last blog post..Showin’ Your Spanx?

the mama bird diaries June 8, 2008 at 9:02 pm

That sounds so peaceful. Love the picture.

the mama bird diariess last blog post..when i grow up, i want to be a pit boss

Grandy June 8, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Beautiful post, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing and taking us there with you. My thoughts and prayers are with you in what is weighing on you.

May you get to float again soon. πŸ™‚

Grandys last blog post..Grandy Can’t Complain

Sandy (Momisodes) June 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Good heavens woman. I can hardly breathe sometimes while reading your posts. I often read over your sentences thinking to myself, “I know EXACTLY what she means….but she says it with so much grace and beauty.” Especially when you mention “When I yearn for certainty?”

Wishing you luck in finding your tether.

Sandy (Momisodes)s last blog post..Weekly Winners

Carolyn June 8, 2008 at 11:05 pm

I want to say what everyone said before me. This was a fantastic post. Your writing is like poetry; thick with imagery that dazzles all my senses. Just beautiful. I hope that the stars align for you and your life is filled soon with more answers than questions.

Thanks for sharing your lovely evening swim. xoxo c

Carolyns last blog post..before you speak.

Dharmamama June 9, 2008 at 6:04 am

Ah, yes, and the feminine aspect of the moon, I can feel that connection for you as well. You are an amazing woman.

Love the pool (or any water) at night.

My minister quoted that exact same phrase about 3 times in his sermon a few weeks ago… and he’d pause afterwards, and let it sink in. Beautiful.

Dharmamamas last blog post..This Post Brought to You by Summer ’74

Ann June 9, 2008 at 7:12 am

Lovely post. It seemed to recall, for me, all of the times I’ve moved to new cities – and how each time I felt so refreshed, instantly transported into a phase of discovery, a clean slate. Though eventually, each time, those feelings wore off – and I realized how fickle they were, but fun nonetheless. But, it reminds me of feeling untethered – this moving thing that I’ve done many times – and it can be liberating. If I could only capture that untethered feeling a bit more easily…huh?

Anns last blog post..Dear Chocolate, It’s Me

liv June 9, 2008 at 10:27 am

nice. that felt good.

livs last blog post..

Jules~ June 9, 2008 at 5:02 pm

I loved closing my eyes and being at the pool with you. The mild waters took the sizzle out of the day as the sky changed color. I could hear all the little bug desert sounds on a very soft slight breeze. Thank you.

Jules~s last blog post..Blogging with Purpose….

Suzanne June 9, 2008 at 5:20 pm

I loved the images you created here. When I was a little girl I loved to swim underwater while in the pool and imagine that I was somewhere else. As an adult, I float on my back in the Atlantic ocean, stare at the sky and contemplate where I am and where I am going…existentially speaking, of course. There is something incredibly soothing about the sensory deprivation of being in water.

BTW, this week I’m giving away a subscription to Budget Travel magazine as a further inspiration to The Grand Tour theme! Stop by and tell me where you want to go on your dream holiday.

Suzannes last blog post..Our First Giveaway!

Tootsie Farklepants June 9, 2008 at 6:42 pm

You write so beautifully!

Tootsie Farklepantss last blog post..I Put My Appearance in Your Hands

melissa June 9, 2008 at 7:57 pm


melissas last blog post..Mr. G eats cheese

Just Jamie June 11, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Love your wanderlust spirit and way with words Jennifer.

Just Jamies last blog post..Do You Ever Feel Like Your Ass Is Stuck In A Bucket?

Teresa Tebbe June 13, 2008 at 6:52 am

Thank you so much for bringing us along. For a few seconds, I really felt as if I were there. It was beautiful.

This is the first time I’ve read your blog (as a result of your posting my first ever comment! – thank you). I almost commented on poker. It seems we both grew up in Missouri, and like you, I spent countless Friday night / Saturday mornings playing poker (or, occasionally, Pinochle) with my rough n tumble family. These get-togethers usually involved rivers of spirits and an early breakfast feast of biscuits n gravy, fried eggs, and potatoes with onion. My mom is a great cook! I miss those nights almost as much as the lightening bugs.

But this post… This is the one I had to comment on. It was a meditation for me. I was transported. You are truely talented. Thanks again.

Jenny, Bloggess June 15, 2008 at 12:47 pm

So, so beautiful.

PS. Featured on Good Mom/Bad Mom on the Houston Chronicle.


Jenny, Bloggesss last blog post..BS Sunday, part I’m-not-sure

kyran June 21, 2008 at 6:23 am

lovely, and my kirtsy editor’s pick today:


Mind, Body, Spirit Editor

kyrans last blog post..I like New York in Joon…

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