If it comes to that

by Jennifer on November 17, 2009

Before breakfast on a school day. We stand side by side at the window, looking out, son and mother.  A stream runs behind the house, fast and full when it rains or quiet and slow, like now. Beyond the stream, the woods. The forest floor is an endless brown and orange sea, and the bare trees look like the masts of half-sunken ships.

Easier to see it that way when you’re standing next to a ten year old.

When we moved here, the leaves were just starting to change. In these weeks while we’ve settled in, they blushed to bright colors and let the come-ons of wind and rain and winter’s siren call lure them to the ground. A few holdouts still cling like small flags to bare branches. If they’re unsure of the landing, I can’t really blame them. It’s a long way to fall.

Hunter and I watch two squirrels chase each other from one tree to another, far on the other side of the creek, a view we couldn’t have seen a few weeks ago before the leaves came down.

“There’s a lot of open space out there,” he says.

It’s enough at his age, to say a thing like that, and not attach some kind of meaning to it. Me, I can’t help myself. If a metaphor isn’t obvious, just give me a week or two and I’ll find it.

But he’s said what he means. There’s a lot of open space out there. It’s appreciation. I know how much he loves that space.

The woods are his, he’s claimed them. When we lived in the desert, I would have to talk him into going outside to play sometimes, even in the milder months. Now, exploring the creek is his first order of business when he comes home from school. New ways to cross it, if the big log and stepping stones won’t do. Sticks and leaves to float down the stream. Merrily, merrily.

More times than not, he comes to the house wet up to his knees. We have it down to a routine now. Shoes and socks off outside the door, then straight to the laundry room to take off the pants. And so he goes, shivering. Shivering and all-boy happy.

I love seeing him like this. Rushing headlong toward something so pure and elemental, something that fills this old need in him, a need I know because at least in part, I gave it to him. That want for what’s undiscovered and new and ancient and out of the earth. What can be found around a bend in the creek or a bend in the road.

Even though I’m the one borrowing from him these days.

Now that I’m here, now that I’ve made this huge change, I’m at a loss. There’s so much for me to figure out  – things there wasn’t time to sort out before the move – that some days I feel paralyzed. It’s embarrassing to admit, because shouldn’t I have it all worked out by now? It’s not as though I don’t have plans – I do, and they’re good – but there are days when it’s all I can do to make just a little bit of progress.

The reality is – and it breathes down my neck every single day – that it’s now or never. I can’t afford to wait or hedge or shake in my boots. I’ve got two people counting on me to follow through and sort it all out. I’ve got no business hanging on to that high branch, worried about the fall. Paralyzed by fear?  Yep, know how it feels. But it’s useless, letting that fear have its way, and I know it, know it in my head and in my gut.

So when I see my son, all squishy sneakers and big smile, walking up the hill from the creek, I wish I could borrow his enthusiasm, his curiosity to find a way to the other side, his willingness to fall into the creek, by golly, if it comes to that.

I’ve got to find a way to scoop up some of that and use it as fuel for the plans I have. Plans that aren’t so complicated, really, and boy do they need to come to something. I need to hear yes, and not just from voices on the phone, but from a deep place inside of me. Not a timid yes, either, with a question mark on the end. Just yes.

And I realize, I do, that no one these days, in this economy, has any right to expect good things to happen. All I can do is ask, and hope somehow to find a way across or around or through. And then work for it, and to be willing to fall if it comes to that, and start over again. Which is what I’m going to do, the work. Because maybe there’s enough room in the world some good things to happen still.

Because this really smart guy told me something, and I think it might be important.

There’s a lot of open space out there.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios November 17, 2009 at 4:34 am

Once when I was in a difficult spot and frightened by a future that looked very different than the one I was comfortable imagining for myself, a good friend told me, “Remember who you are.”

He had more confidence in me than I had in myself, and his words forced me to do an accounting of all I’d been through and triumphed over already in life and all the support I had from friends and family. When I felt weak or confused or not up to the task ahead of me, I “remembered who I was” and told myself I was strong, smart, and resourceful and would make it through one way or another.

So Jennifer, remember who you are–strong, smart, resourceful–and a damn fine writer. : ) Courage!


slouchy November 17, 2009 at 5:22 am

You are going to knock ’em dead, you know.


Jenn @ Juggling Life November 17, 2009 at 6:38 am

It’s all just around the corner.


Daryl November 17, 2009 at 8:54 am

You can and will … channel the Little Engine That Could


Smalltown Mom November 17, 2009 at 9:03 am



Kellie C. November 17, 2009 at 9:18 am

You have been so amazing and strong this past month or so! You have it in you and keep going ahead and don’t look back! You can do it!!!! YES, YES!


Green Girl in Wisconsin November 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Brilliantly said. And I’m so glad to hear your son is enjoying ALL THAT SPACE. Join him!


Coco November 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Lovely, lovely, lovely, my friend.

I have absolute faith in you. You were born to shine.


Suzanne November 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Jennifer, I’m not sure what brought you to Maryland or what is the new project you are undertaking (writing, songwriting, all of the above?), I do want to tell you this is a beautiful piece of writing and I wish you the best of luck and I know that with your resourcefulness and talent you will succeed.


jessica November 17, 2009 at 4:18 pm

What an incredible analogy. I’ve come to a point where I literally cannot afford to be frightened. I feel like there is only so much to go around but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get mine. Your son is a very bright boy, just like his mother


ByJane November 17, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Some days it comes down to just planting one foot in front of the other, I find. And telling myself: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Perhaps I need to reduce myself that much on those days; eloquence–originality–is not what I need.

There is a lot of space out there. Was it better when we were born and died in the same small town? I’ll never know…because I’m always curious about what’s in that field over there.


Emily R November 17, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Never let a good metaphor go to waste


the mama bird diaries November 17, 2009 at 8:12 pm

I have endless faith in you. Good things are to come. XO


jenrantsraves November 18, 2009 at 10:39 am

I wish we could all find whoever it was in our childhood who made us lose that wonder and determination… and shove them into that stream. Good luck with whatever you are doing.


Stacie November 18, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Good things will come. Good things have come in the form of your children. Hope is all you have right now for you and your children. Hang on to it. You’re a good mom and you’ll do the right thing.


Madge November 19, 2009 at 8:35 am

damn it. stop being the best writer ever. ok. don’t stop. look, i’m trying to blog again. and yeah, i’m calling you today..


tysdaddy November 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm

I needed this today, my friend.

Being unemployed and searching . . . sucks ass. And there are days when YES seems like the most foreign word in all of my vocabulary.


Indigo November 23, 2009 at 7:49 am

I’ve missed your words sweet friend. There is so much wisdom in this post. I was where you are now just before the summer. I was asked to take a leap on faith and see it where it took me. I won’t lie, there will still be days of “glued to the spot” fear that overwhelms you. But the mere fact you make that leap doesn’t allow for you to remain in that place for long, the current will pull you forward swift and sure. All that is left is for you let it.

You are destined for bigger things. The small things like wide open spaces are just the beginning of what unfolds inside. (Hugs)Indigo


Genny November 23, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Stopping by from a link about the Kirtsy book (I’m a contributor too). Just had to comment and say this really tugged at my heart. You write beautifully.


fancy feet November 24, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Yes, there is a lot of open space out there. I’m going to take that to heart…and I hope you do too. 🙂


apathy lounge November 24, 2009 at 10:52 pm

It’s going to happen for you. I just know it.


Marinka November 28, 2009 at 9:11 am

One step at a time. I’m pulling for you. (And this was beautiful to read. Thank you)


anymommy December 1, 2009 at 12:09 am

Space to be a wild success (or a quiet success). It’s going to happen for you.


Suzanne December 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Girl, where are you and what have you been up to?


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: