by Jennifer on November 14, 2008

Their hair smells of woodsmoke, their fingers sticky with marshmallow. Firelight dances and flickers on their faces as she makes up a song about roasting marshmallows and he strategically adds a few of them to the top of a log so we can watch them swell to the size of baseballs and flame high and turn black. The stars turn themselves on and the full moon casts the yard in silver.

A school night transformed into a moment. An occasion.

We’ve been living this week like it’s something special, because it is. Larger than our everyday life, and that’s fine – every day can’t be a parade or a carnival. But there haven’t been many moments like last night, even though it took almost no effort to make it happen, and it was painfully apparent how much we needed it. It was on my kids’ faces, and in their voices, strung high and tight on sugar and euphoria and the need for a night around a fire. Any fire, anything that burns brighter than the low flame of routine.

I’ve been doing the least amount to get by, to get from the start of a day to the end. Here, I can’t say I’ve been as open as I want to be, offering you just what I’ve skimmed from the surface where the sun and the sky reflect something lighter and prettier than what lies beneath. It’s not that what’s beneath the surface is a roiling mess of despair. It’s cool and dark there, and mostly still. I can spread my arms and touch nothing, or curl myself into something small and quiet. Oh, the quiet.

From there, I can look and see nothing beyond the next five minutes or the next hour, I don’t look ahead to the moments five years into the future or even a year. Those dangle just out of focus, like a blur of holiday lights from a distance.

It’s not that I don’t want to get to those moments, because I do, very much. I’m hard-wired to want to know what happens next, to know how it all turns out. This sadness of mine isn’t the kind that will shut me down, it just makes it harder to get to back to the surface. Like swimming when hypothermia starts to set in.

But living that way takes a toll on all of us, especially my children. They’re good at making their own fun, so it’s not that I feel responsible for entertaining them at all times. But it takes nothing – nothing – to make something sweet or fun out of a day. I owe it to my kids to carve something lovely from these days, days that have a finite number attached to them, even if I don’t know that number. Every day, one less.

So what am I waiting for? Some day in the future when the world will suddenly turn itself on, all bright lights and the glint of sun on snow and a road that’s empty from end to end just waiting for me? Why do I let life happen in rooms with the shades drawn?

Goethe said, “What is important in life is life, and not the result of life,” and I agree with him.

So it’s a bit of luck that I am saved by the little things, simple things.

Like the smell of woodsmoke in the hair of my children. My daughter dancing in the yard and singing about marshmallows. Her laugh bubbling up from her belly. The sight of a cloud of freckles on my son’s cheek, or catching the first glimpse of him after school when he’s carrying his violin case and talking to his friends. An hour at the lake, my kids feeding the ducks. My son discovering the interactive properties of marshmallows and fire. My girl stopping to make a fervent wish on the first star, a thing she does because I taught her how.

Or the moment that happened last night around midnight when I went outside to douse what was left of the fire in the firepit. I walked into the yard to look up at the full moon and to fill my lungs with the clean, sweet night air.

I stood there for maybe ten seconds – ten seconds – before a shooting star blew across the sky above me, like it was just for me, a flare that my soul sent up, past the surface of this cool, dark place.

A sign that the fire burns, that the world is ablaze, always was. And will be.

There was nothing to do but swim to the surface and make a wish.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Em November 14, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Lovely. Really beautiful. The pictures you create resonate so with me. I have an incredible book in front of me, but I want to turn to the back, just to make sure it’s a happily ever after ending.

I’m so worried about things turning out “right,” that I’m not doing the things today that will get me to that great conclusion tomorrow.

The Parent’s Conundrum.

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Julie Pippert November 14, 2008 at 12:37 pm

A beautifully put truth.

Julie Pipperts last blog post..Because She’s A Canadian, She Says (Often)

Mary Alice November 14, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Sigh. That was lovely and something I needed to hear too.

Mary Alices last blog post..Honesty….it’s not just a Billy Joel Song

Madge November 14, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Jenn, this is beautiful. I feel like I’ve been doing the least to get by too, and it’s starting to get to me. I need some little thing… like a shooting star or a roasted marshmallow.

or a drink.

yeah, ok, that’s all i need…

Madges last blog post..Confessions and the BFL – Week 11

reluctantfarmchik November 14, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Man – did anyone ever tell you that you should write a book!? I know – take a number, huh?

Isn’t it amazing how badly we want that good ending, but the pursuit of it nullifies the effect!? We can’t just let it be. Let it happen. Somehow we feel like we need to manufacture it. And your lesson so poignantly shows that allowing what is beautiful to just be . . . and let that be enough.

So glad you had that opportunity. And that you can recognize, and step over, your desire for particular outcomes. And you got a shooting star wish as a prize. Excellent. Relish the experience and relive it. And don’t try to recreate it. New and wonderful things will happen. Just let them.

Crazycath November 14, 2008 at 2:30 pm


Just dreamy.

Crazycaths last blog post..Ready for the next hunt…

Jenn @ Juggling Life November 14, 2008 at 2:50 pm

A beautiful reminder for all of us.

Jenn @ Juggling Lifes last blog post..In Which I Have To Call A Plumber On New Year’s Eve

RiverPoet November 14, 2008 at 2:52 pm

What an amazing and beautiful post, Jennifer. I could read it again and again…

Peace – D

RiverPoets last blog post..Proposition 8

heartache heartburn November 14, 2008 at 2:53 pm

That was beautiful. I was blog surfing and stumbled across your blog. You have a way with words. I will have to read your archives.

heartache heartburns last blog post..Yikes!

Coco November 14, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Lovely. Just lovely.

Now, I feel I must in good conscience at least try to act like a proper writing partner.

(Sternly) This had better be part of your NaNo book, missy.

(Says the slacker who slinks off to finish a post about cereal when she should be typing her own book out. Shame! Shame on me!)

Cocos last blog post..Star Witness

jenrantsraves November 14, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Sigh. So many of your posts are things that I myself am thinking about, or want to write about, but it would require too much time to get it right, so they go unwritten. It frustrates me, all the beautiful writing that goes unwritten. But, as you said in this post, living life is what matters, not writing about it.
I really love your writing, though, and I wish I could sit by the fire and talk to you about this and many of your other posts. You have a gift – thank you for sharing it.

Ree November 14, 2008 at 6:51 pm

I think you already know that I love your writing. Now – that wish. You made it in your previous post. Don’t you think there’s something to be said about that heavenly intervention?

Rees last blog post..Haiku Friday – In Memoriam

the mama bird diaries November 14, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Oh, that is so beautiful. And perfect. Living in the present is truly living. Of course, we constantly have to remind ourselves.

Louise November 14, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Maybe there should be more times like that. OK, there probably SHOULD be more times like that, because as you said, each day is one less. But you deserve some credit for having a few of them and for recongizing the enormous beauty in them.

(I want a fire!)

Louises last blog post..A Time for Humility

flutter November 15, 2008 at 12:57 am

absolutely beautiful, Jenn

flutters last blog post..wherein she loses all of her readers due to the lack of war paint

Hilary November 15, 2008 at 7:15 am

Beautiful. A fire is meant for just such feelings. I have no doubt your wish will come true.

Hilarys last blog post..Of Red and White

maggie, dammit November 15, 2008 at 8:02 am

You are amazing.

maggie, dammits last blog post..Love Letter

Gwen November 15, 2008 at 11:42 am

The shooting star? such a perfect ending.

But your fire references, the burning universe, reminds me of T.S. Eliot: “We only live, only suspire/ Consumed by either fire or fire.”

Rhea November 15, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Lovely imagery. You paint beautiful pictures with your words.

Rheas last blog post..All Annie, All the Time

Elaine - The Miss Elaine-ous Life November 15, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Your writing is so lovely, heartfelt and inspiring.

Elaine – The Miss Elaine-ous Lifes last blog post.."The Age of Maximum Cuteness"

Heather November 15, 2008 at 11:39 pm

So true. It does take little to make things special. I need to make more of an effort.

Heathers last blog post..Front yard, back yard, all around the town

anymommy November 16, 2008 at 2:05 am

Starlight, starbright… I’d forgotten all about wishing on the first star. Sad how I have lost some of the magic of childhood, I want to remember it so I can pass it on. Thanks for reminding me!

anymommys last blog post..High Tide

Daryl November 16, 2008 at 8:38 am

Nice post .. lots of great imagery .. but I do think you are a bit hard on yourself …. just a bit ..

Daryls last blog post..waiting, impatiently

Minnesota Matron November 17, 2008 at 11:43 am

Sigh. Makes me want to run home and whip up a fire. Lovely. Universal.

Minnesota Matrons last blog post..Sunday, Meditation

fancy feet November 17, 2008 at 3:05 pm

This really resonated with me. Carving (fun) time out for my children takes so little and I think sometimes I make too much out of it.

“Why do I let life happen in rooms with the shades drawn?” Great line.

I love the smell of woodsmoke in my kids’ hair too. There is something so delicious about that smell. It’s a little reminder of my own childhood.

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Ann November 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm

This hit me…I’ve been fighting a rather empty feeling lately, waiting for the “result of life”, rather than just life itself.

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