slowly, suddenly

This past weekend we took a road trip to the other side of this wide state of ours.  We crossed two rivers, drove through four tunnels, and hugged the curves tightly around countless mountains.  It was a beautiful time of year to be driving: the low coasting sun skimming the trees, standing proudly in their ornate autumn glory.  We were gone only the span of a few days, but what was a dazzling promise on our drive out was a glorious fulfillment of that prophecy for our return trip. It was a slow change for these trees, but it seemed to my eyes to happen overnight, as if I had closed my eyes to the thick blanket of green tucked around the mountains, and awoke to the layered weaving of autumn’s richness. I don’t think I’ll ever numb to this splendor.

Even as we returned home, the momentum of the kids’ bodies pushing open the screen door, their feet met the leaves on the ground, and they were surprised by the crunch.  “Fall is here! It’s really Fall!” they exclaimed, bending down to break leaves in their hands, feel it crumble into the powdery dirt from which it came.  Of course, just last week they were playing in the same yard, and we noticed the light change, the colors migrate towards umber.  It changes gradually, but then it happens all of a sudden, too.

The Eldest steps out of the bathroom in the morning, chirping happily about school, and I notice that his pants are all of a sudden too short.  He has been growing slowly, daily, but there was no warning for this immediate lack of proper pants.  The Littlest, whose existence has always been caught up in the energy of his older siblings, experiments daily with his own body.  He stands himself upright, wiggles a bit to find balance, and with a confidence that he owns, takes that first step, all eyes on him.  Yes, he works hard moment by moment, but when it happens, with such suddenness, it’s hard not to know it as surprise.

Our trip this past weekend was to celebrate a wedding.  The bride and groom took each other’s hands, made promises too big to understand, pushing rings onto fingers: two become one.  In an instant, it all changes.  We toasted, and danced, and celebrated the greatness of this.  It’s all of a sudden – not married, now married – but it’s gradual, too.   It happens in the little changes, in the moments of becoming each other’s. It’s been their every breath to get to this point, and it’ll be their every breath from here on out.

Is it a point of no return? Is it in contrast to it’s opposite? What makes us notice that which has been slowly spiraling, signalling change with every breath?  How do we understand the minutiae of change? This change is all around me, now: These little ones who moment by moment become less little, standing taller in their disposition.  This air through the open window – cool and refreshing one minute, damp and bone-chilling the next.  It’s in the slowness that I see it for what it is: always happening, constant motion, gradually all of a sudden.

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