The church on the corner with the red door holds much to be mirrored back. It sprouts, shoots up visceral devotion. There is no shortage. It’s right where she left it all those years ago. She watches from a distance. She likes to be still, quiet. Like a side prop.
This town has her heart; it’s where her daughter was born, amid several things dying and being reborn. She wanders within its mountain walls and wonders who named them all; if every peak has a name; where the ranges begin and end.
When her grandmother was forced to leave her own heart town, she nearly died. And then she did, slowly, over the next five years. The tension between roots and branches—it has always existed.
She thinks about the doctor who delivered her baby, the way he reached right inside her without knowing her: her body, her story—before pushing her legs apart. But he must have caught a glimmer, because after the head and shoulders were out, he said, “Reach down and deliver your baby.” Her tired, strong arms, connected to her capable hands, connected to her knowledge of labor—tucked under those slippery shoulders and pulled just enough to bring the rest of that tiny body to bear. Her beautiful girl.
At that moment, a few people pass through the parking lot: an older couple and, behind them, a tall boy hunched in a hooded jacket. The boy, coming up behind the couple, seems to push past them to get to the door. But then, after pulling on half of that heavy red rectangle, he stands back and holds it open for them in the dripping rain. Her heart thrills at the unexpected; at her own false judgment proven wrong; at the hope inside that hood.
She wants to go in. She wants the boy-man to hold open that red bivalve for her. She wants. She wonders where he came from, what he is holding inside his bulky jacket, whether it is full of contiguous angst. She wants to know how he pursues happiness, what works, what fails, if his earbuds block out the earth noise just enough for him to hear the call: to real self—non-self; to block out the entity that will die soon; to exit the ego that needs, worries, lies awake at night need-worrying.
She knows she will not go in. She will not find the right configuration. But she has come this far, within vision, within reach. Soon it will be time to turn back to her own life, to tend to it like the beautiful garden it truly is—deep down beneath the weeds and marsh and trash and wreckage.
But first she will visit the coast, watch the ships come and go, study the lighthouses to learn how she, over time, became one; that light, that reference point, that anchor; and to understand how—if ever—she is to move on from it. A lighthouse cannot abandon its post; it cannot become a ship, as great as its desire may be to unmoor and move across the sea at will. Too many other ships depend on it, on its steadfastness, its anchored light.
Maybe she is not the lighthouse after all, but its keeper. Maybe she can pass that on to another. How to inhabit a lighthouse for a time, bring it to bear, save a few souls, and then pass it on.
The thought is enough to jolt her upright in her car. She can leave the lighthouse. She can be a ship for a time, if she wants. She can be a buoy. A windowless cabin. A silo. An open bivalve. She can be whatever she wants, needs to be. Except inside that church, on this day. And that’s OK. She starts her engine and drives off into the rain.