As I’m turning forty (see: “40”) next year, I am exactly ten times as old as my oldest daughter. I don’t write that to depress myself today, though it’s a disappointing byproduct, but instead I’m writing to log something amazing.
Last night Ava and I inched out of the house around 9:30pm in a stealth effort to go have a private swim in Lake Michigan. A night swim. To get to the lake from our house, we have to descend from the road to the beach through a sandy path that’s completely canopied by gigantic trees. It’s almost like a downhill cave of sorts. Maybe it’s 200 yards long. At 9:30 last night, the walk through those trees and down that path was absolutely mesmerizing. The sun had just set, but its light was still burning up the western horizon, which was the direction we were walking. Being in an enclosure of trees, in a part of the country where the sun had already passed, and heading downward created a kaleidoscope effect. Though it was pitch black on our path, the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ so to speak was an incredible collision of still blue water and the remaining sunlight. Black where we were. Glowing where we were going.
There weren’t any boats on the water and there wasn’t much wind. There weren’t any swimmers splashing around either and all the people that were dragging their toes through the shore during the day were long gone. The line between the earth and the lake was a perfect crease and when Ava and I entered the water and let it rise to our knees, then our waists, then our shoulders we barely caused a ring to ripple around us. As the water enveloped our bodies and we were able the turn around and watch ourselves move further away from the land, the feeling of complete insignificance became so overwhelming that neither of us spoke for almost a minute.
I watched Ava’s eyes darting around and I knew she was taking it all in but probably didn’t have the words to tell me how small she felt, how awesome mother nature is and how lucky we are. Bird, I said to her. As old as I am, what we are seeing right now is perfection. Our lives and everything around us is blending together and it is awesome to me. I am very happy to be here with you right now.
Dad, she finally said. I see a wishing star. Sure enough, the north star had ignited right above our heads. We decided we’d make a wish and furthermore that she’d keep hers a secret. I told her mine – that I wanted Rhonda’s dad to be comfortable in his last days… (While he’s sick, I said).
The sun set further and the water transitioned from electric blue to dark purple without us being aware or giving our permission. Ava and I were busy diving for the perfect skipping stones and then seeing who could get more splashes. Again, with the horizon lighter over the water than the sky was where we were, every single splash got its own personalized and exquisite silhouette. Then fireworks began to detonate up and down the coast. Bird got excited, spinning in circles in the water so she wouldn’t miss any of the exploding colors. She watched them all. I watched her.
Several times I lamented not having my camera. The truth of it all is that even if I had it, I’m not an astute enough photographer that I could have reconciled the light and shutter speed and made any kind of success towards capturing what I was seeing. Then I wished I had my video camera. But then what? I was in the water with my daughter, counting stars, making wishes and make believing that we were the only people left in the world. What would I do, step off the page of the perfect story that I was a part of and ask her to recite it back to me so I could record it?
That’s when it dawned on me. I realized what I really wanted to capture wasn’t just the horizon, still water or fireworks. And memorializing Ava’s underwater-night-time-head-stands or her take on which rocks make the best skipping stones against the perfect canvas of silence wasn’t going to complete me either. Nope. That’s when I knew…I wanted all of it – The picture, the words from my baby’s mouth, the trees and the temperature. The time, the age, the flagrant splashing amongst an absent world. I wanted that time, that place, right then…forever. Last night, by accident or design, someone picked me up and put me down in the middle of perfection.
Thank you for that.