My rudder is loose.
Not so as to be lost or aimless, simply less firmly on course than usual. The boat is afloat, and there are other boats nearby so I know where I am. Occasionally one will sidle up to me to check on my course, reminding me I am part of a deeply generous community. I see numerous ports and docks shrouded in a filmy mist, visible yet unclear as to which is closest.
Driving my son to the airport at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, All Hallows’ Eve, also known as All Saints’ Eve the day before All Saints Day, took some more pins out of the rudder‘s shaft. I felt the extraction, embedded nails being eked out of an old board. October 31 is the first day of three days dedicated to remembering the saints, the martyrs, and the faithful departed (the saints are the hallows, an old Scottish word for sacred or saintly, as in hallowed ground.) A shard of my heart walked away from me through the zone 4 door 8 portal into the melee of frenzied travelers and security staff. His tall form, topped with a Dale Earnhardt cap, merged into the bustle as I pulled away from the curb.
Losing my Mom in early September pulled a couple pins out, yet it also put some in place; as at ninety-one, she was ready to go, she passed peacefully, and my hand was on her chest as she took her last breath. There lies another rich story. Her memorial had brought my son, ever so briefly, as his heart steered him to homeport.
When I was on Orcas Island the end of July for StoryFest in East Sound, the expansive view from near the top of Mount Constitution humbled me as I looked into the depthless hues of blue where water merged into islands into horizon into sky. I thought, How have I never seen this before? Or more accurately, How have I looked at such beauty and not seen it‘s magnitude? As I stood there gazing out, I felt part of the horizon, like waking up after a long sleep and looking gratefully at familiar surroundings; wondering how could I navigate amidst all of it and absorb its wonder.
A few days later, my nephew and his remarkable wife, had a birthday celebration for their two youngest kiddoes, who’s birthdays are five days apart. The picnic was at Legion Park, on the bluff overlooking Port Gardner in north Everett. As I walked across the lawn to the great maple tree where the picnic was set up and the barbecue wafted tendrils of sizzling burger smoke toward me, there beyond Jetty Island was that depthless blue. Possession Sound, the Snohomish River delta emptying into Port Gardner, Hat Island, Port Susan, Camano Island, Whidbey Island, and the Saratoga Strait.
The shapeless haze melded it all together. How have I not seen this infinite beauty before? As on Orcas, I felt myself wanting to blend into it, as much a part of the haze as any molecule of moisture composing it. As Rainer Maria Rilke said, “I feel closer to what language can’t reach. With my sense, as with birds, I climb into the windy heaven, out of the oak, and in the ponds broken off from the sky my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes.”
How do I find my way through the beauty of the world as well as the uncertainty? The structure of my life, established by employer, commitments, and other responsibilities, made steering the boat simple, my hand on the rudder felt confident. Now, important people and things in my life are gone or changed. Fishes have their rudders firmly attached. Lucky them.
Maybe lucky me. Pins can be added, subtracted, altered, replaced, retooled. As can rudders. As can souls. The hallowed path I now walk rises before me, the looseness a new kind of rudder.