The past has a way of rising up sometimes, like an old stone foundation somewhere in the woods that is revealed one spring after a few days of hard rain. One week, on a walk through the woods, it isn’t there. The next, it is.
Though, at times we expect the past to tip its hand. At family gatherings that have a history of tension. A funeral, with people at odds. We brace ourselves for it, and shoulder against it, ready to push back. But sometimes. Sometimes, without any warning, it’s right there in the path ahead of us, against our toes before we even see it, and we stumble.
Yesterday, I came up against just such a thing. Something from far, far back, all the way back to late childhood. Something I thought was particular to my family– a punishment– because it was so singular in nature. Or so I thought. Learning that it happened to someone else was so sad to me. Startling, and sad.
I can’t help thinking about how, at any time, a memory or an event can come up through us, unbidden. Just like that. It reminded me of something I wrote for my book a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll share it here. It’s just a paragraph or two, and it’s still rough, but here it is:
Maybe that is how it is after all, for all of us. Are we not just skimming across the surface of all that has gone before? All of our history beneath us, not behind us. How tempting it is to think of things the other way, on a timeline of the years, to put things behind where they cannot catch up to us. When the truth is, anything we have experienced lies beneath, where it can pull at us like the tides, yank us down with its undertow, or split the earth beneath us.
Or. If we are really lucky, something from our past–something good–will carry us along in its current and deliver us, maybe just once, safely to shore.
I’m hoping that the good currents, the ones that come to us with the force of something happy and sweet, will be the strongest in the end. I have hope.