My family gathered these past several days in a rented house made of logs near a lake. There is a particular variety of beauty that comes from persistent practices of welcome and healing, of conversation and meal making, of porch sitting, laughing, and playing. For half of my life my family looked one way. It was simple, nuclear, coherent. Then a split, followed by a couple of decades worth of renewal, grace, and careful cultivation. And now we are another way. We are a hodgepodge of Maritime strength and Hoosier heartiness carried by our collective commitment to finding an imperfect and fully functional pathway to togetherness.
There is a spirit of courage about us, a sort of defiant disregard for cliche, for precedent, for the status quo of lives lived siloed by past hurts and new commitments. We hold our hurts with tenderness, yet we know we’re at our fullest when we don’t let fear dictate the capacity of our hearts to heal. We lean into new commitments by sharing with them from the wealth of the formative elements that preceded them. We treat family like a dynamic force; a thing to be unfurled and used to carry us to places we might not otherwise have gone.
Family is like an inner tube in a box. It can stay in that box, stored in the rafters of my garage for a couple of years becoming dusty, and in so doing it will be no less what it is. But when you open the box, when you open the valve, when you move breath from the outside world into its expanse it becomes even more of what it is. And then when you hoist it over your head, now several times larger than what it was before you opened it to its possibilities, and you carry it down the gravel road on a sunny summer day in Maine to the grassy area that feeds into the lake, and you place it in the water and regard its buoyant properties, it is now even more of what it has been all along. And when you add to its breath-filled form the full weight of your body in postures of rest and in the spirit of play, that’s when family comes alive to the full potential of what it is and can be.
There is a sense of freedom in sharing space with family such as we are and such as we do. When we come together it’s as if the world of time ripples with pause. We are allowed to share this space for a collection of moments independent of where our day-to-day lives diverge. The ripple is limited. Its wave returns to normalcy after the designated nights pass. But its limit is part of the emotional beauty that occurs. We inhabit the space like a breathing constellation, clustering together then darting out then clustering again around a memory, one from the past or one in the making.