My in-laws are in town for a visit and today we took Isabella to the aquarium. The place was teeming with families and summer campers. We made our way in, past the hoopla of a play area with a giant blow-up shark.
As we walked through the rooms of tanks, I felt submerged. It was dark and cool and somehow quiet, even with so many children everywhere. Peaceful and dream-like. Jellyfish and sharks and giant sea turtles.
Eventually we returned to the bright light, sea lions diving and then popping up, little snouts sniffing the air, to which Isabella said, “God bless you, sea lion!” Outside in the thick heat, we entered the butterfly exhibit. She was overwhelmed by the myriad wings fluttering all around us. Butterflies alighting on my arms and shoulders.
We made one more round through the dark and dreamy tanks before we left. Even on this day spent indoors, I am writing about water. It seems to reappear and repeat. So too, with my daughter. This project is supposed to be about me, but here she is again, always with me. If I was looking for a delineation of the border between us, I haven’t found it. I look for me, and I find us.
And I find happiness.
Yesterday I took this picture of myself. Every once in awhile, when I’m feeling invisible, submerged, I’ll snap a selfie. I never post it; it just sits in the vast archive on my phone. A record of me, visible. Toddler behind me in her car seat wondering why the heck I’m delayed in unbuckling her.
(Post 210 of 365)
I am impatient for leaves on the maple. I resent the forsythia for being the only bright color in the yard. April, the month of almost-there.
But the birds are singing in the stark branches. And it’s warm enough in the sun.
Also, I lied about there only being forsythia. A few dandelions and daffodils stretch up determined and hardy. There’s the creeping phlox and a few grape hyacinth whose purple bells are quickly plucked and shredded by little toddler hands.
The cats are happy explorers in the brambles out back.
We’ve had to keep our Easter butterflies longer than usual because of the cool weather. Today seemed like the right day to release them. One butterfly stayed for a bit, sunning himself. And Isabella spoke to him, a sweet farewell.
“Literature is my religion. Books have been the thing throughout my life that have offered the greatest consolation and enlightenment and illumination and all the things that we go to religion or spiritual practice for.”
This weekend we will celebrate Easter without church or religious ritual.
We will hunt for eggs filled with little dinosaurs and finger puppets and animal crackers. We will spend time with family and eat lots of good food. Togetherness and gratitude as forms of prayer.
Every Easter my mother gives us a container with caterpillars. Dark, unremarkable insects that move very slowly. We will watch them grow fat and eventually make their way to the paper at the top of the cup. They will shed their skin for the last time and reveal chrysalides. We will carefully transfer the chrysalides to a netted butterfly house. In the stillness their bodies will break down into imaginal cells and form an entirely new shape. Eventually they will begin to twitch and break free, emerge as bright winged creatures. After a few days of feeding them honey water, we will take them outside and watch them take flight. A tangible reminder of the power and possibility of transformation.