I sat in our old blue rowboat in a sea of sweet summer grass, the wildflowers on our property and stray pieces of wheat the hay man had missed waving in the warm breeze.
I liked our little boat. We’d rescued the poor abandoned thing off of an island seashore that was a dumping ground for dozens of wrecked and forgotten rotting boats, and after years the city had finally posted a notice that they were scrapping the whole hazardous, wasted beach and carting off all wreckage on it.
We’d waited until an hour before the ship undertakers were due to come, and we’d walked across the rust and debris like doctors on a sunlit battlefield…listening for heartbeats, choosing who to save.
Our boat landed in our project queue, and there I was: tucked in our empty boat in our open field in the foothills that slumbered at the feet of the Cascade mountain range.
There was something beautifully comforting about its resilient rusty body, and I found myself coming out to sit within the old weathered hull more and more often, tying my dog nearby – imagining it was the wreck of the old Edmund Fitzgerald risen up from the depths of Superior, and just maybe it was as grateful to us as I was to it to rest in good company.
It felt good to sit and watch the day fade.
I knew I wanted to write again, but I’d been so unsure about how to do it.
I had 37 drafts. 37 drafts started. Most of them were about my health, about my fear, and so I’d just scrapped them before they ever grew past tender shoots – not wanting to talk about it.
And so I sat, unsure. Finally knowing I had to just suck it up and find a way to somehow tell the truth anyway.
To find a way to talk about it all, the good wrapped up with the bad.
To write life. Because right now, this is mine.
I closed my eyes and began to think back, the sun like a lit match against my eyelids.
“Oh dear. Did I do this to you?”
The elderly nurse looked at the bruising on my arms as she held a needle poised for round 2.
“Yes,” I answered honestly, surprised she didn’t remember me and the battle she’d had with my veins in this very office, in this very room, in this very chair. I’d even been wearing the same printed t-shirt.
“I was here a few days ago…but it’s ok.”
I didn’t mean it.
I was grumpy as all get out, but was cruising on auto-polite and attempted a grimacing smile.
I didn’t mean it.
Everything ached. I didn’t know why, and I was worried.
My doctor had called me in again to try to solve another mystery, this time within my blood. My last blood work enzymes had come out triple what they should have been, and so I was here again. The nurse leaned forward to have another go.
“I’ll just get in quick…” she said. I closed my eyes, letting my mind float.
“BABE! Just GET IN QUICK” my friend screamed at me as she floated in the depths of the lake.
I stood in the crisp early summer water up to my thighs, covered in goosebumps, my nerve somewhere back in the car next to my pants.
“I can’t!” I screamed back at her. “It’s too cold!”
It had been her idea to go night swimming. She said it was a regular thing for Washington kids to do in the summer on nights when the shore was quiet and the moon was on the rise.
5 years a Northerner, and somehow I still felt new.
She started to come back towards the shoreline, towards shivering me, and I realized her intent.
We swam out together into the clear, dark open water, and once we were deep enough we turned onto our backs and floated.
The first stars were beginning to appear.
A full circle of enormous evergreen trees surrounded the lake, and the full moon slowly raised its head.
Higher, higher, turning us into fireflies.
“For you are all children of light…”
-1 Thessalonians 5:5
I absentmindedly picked at the new bandages on my arms as I headed to the physical therapy office.
I looked down at my torn ankle and knew I had big decisions to make.
They wanted to rebuild it. Like a dang Jenga tower.
They wanted to rebuild.
Could I risk it with my traveling nerve disease? It would mean another hard year of recovery.
Would it even heal?
Did I even have the right to fear? I always felt such guilt in my moments of oppressive sadness. So many others fought harder battles than mine.
I felt sweat drip down my spine and looked around the therapy room.
I saw the atrophied. The wheelchair bound. The walker laden. The frost bitten.
And me: 5 feet of sweaty blonde frustration, still set to auto-polite with that weird smile/grimace.
Not quite broken, yet not quite working. Not able to keep myself from thinking about the future.
Thinking about it, but no longer able to plan for it in this body, terrifying in its unpredictability.
I couldn’t stop the flashes from coming: my imaginary healthy body on imaginary, healthy legs chasing ocean eyed, imaginary children. They had names.
It’s so hard to stop.
I closed my eyes against the sun coming through the wall of windows and bundled my curly hair into a fist to free my burning neck. My mind sifted back through yesterdays.
I bundled my hair into a fist as the hot sun poured through the open car windows as we headed up the i-5. The conversation flowed as easily as her wild dreads, as warm as the July wind as we drove past Lake Sammish.
We exited and parked where we could see the sailboats, the door to the fisherman’s cottage open and inviting.
Another was waiting for us inside, waiting with homemade cinnamon rolls and fresh pressed coffee. Over the span of months we had become old fashioned pen pals, and it was our first time officially meeting: a true gathering of the hearts now that we had played catch with the beats from a distance. We kicked off our shoes and sat in her bright kitchen, and for the first time, we began to talk.
Our three hearts began to truly hear each others’ rhythms as we spoke, slowly at first.
For me, it happened around the second cup. That feeling that my heart was bleeding and being bandaged up at the same time, like Jesus was there feeling our happiness, our heaviness, getting us to go deeper, deeper, to talk about the things closest to those beating, bleeding, bandaged things little by little.
These are friends.
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
I was lying on the surgeon’s table as she gave me more news.
She had operated on me only 4 weeks ago, severing tissue and muscle. I knew before she told me that it hadn’t worked. That the wound was still open. In her entire surgical history, she’d never had this procedure backfire on someone.
I listened to her talk about options.
She would shift her schedule and rush me in for another surgery in two weeks. That would make 5 for me in my first year of marriage. The world turned shimmery and blurry, and I looked down to find my contacts swimming in saltwater on the white paper bed.
This same surgeon had operated on me 3 weeks before my wedding so that I could walk down the aisle. God bless her, she would help me again.
I walked slowly back into the same office, into the same room and took a seat in front of the same elderly nurse.
“Oh dear. Did I do this to you?”
She looked at the bruising on both of my arms as she held a needle poised for round 3.
“Yes,” I answered, not surprised she didn’t remember me from the last 2 visits. I’d even worn the same printed t-shirt, just for her.
“I was here a few days ago…but it’s ok.”
I meant it this time.
It was going to be ok.
And so I sat in our old blue rowboat on our back acreage.
I kept looking up hoping Jesus would look down on this battlefield, on this rust covered body and listen for my heartbeat. Choose me. Raise me up from the waters of Lake Superior and give me new life.
I can’t see the future, but I can sit in this boat. I can pray for healing, for patience and acceptance. For my family. For my husband.
I can wait.
He watched me for a moment in my blue cotton dress, then stepped into the small boat and took the seat across from me. We watched the sun quietly take a seat, noticing the passing of time by the colors as they sparked and faded.
It was a perfect moment.
I thought about all of the moments I’d been collecting lately. Difficult moments. So often the sea was stormy and the rocky shoreline too close for comfort. In a marriage, when one falls overboard, you often both do. I knew I had pulled him in with me and we were both just treading water, trying to catch a breath.
I thought about all the beautiful moments. The relationships, the people who make them. The friends who make me go night swimming by the light of the moon and the ones who drive me to the Canadian border and get me to spill my heart in the sunlight over coffee.The mother next door who cooks us a meal when I’m hurting and walks it over, smiling, the hand stitched tea towel flapping in the wind. The grandmother who hand sews dresses for me with a tag that says, “made with love” when jeans hurt my skin. The warm smile from my sister and tiny wild haired niece when they greet me in the garden, covered in dirt like cabbage patch kids on a summer evening. Sitting on the wrap-around porch with my brother, letting the rocking chair set the pace for catching up on life. The father who always walks me home, the one who taught me to look up, who knows the names of the stars but still looks past them.
These moments are gifts.
This body has made it an unexpectedly hard first year, not just for myself but for the dear hearts who love mine. We all wonder what the future will hold, but we’re thankful for the One who holds it.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” –Hebrews 6:19
We waited a while before heading back inside.
We stepped out of the wreckage.
If only it knew our plans for it.
*The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot
2 thoughts on “Wreckage”
This is totally beautiful. Thank you.