Giving Care I
Some years back I came to a point where I had lived long enough and known enough summers and loss that I became a better looker — I began to pay more attention. I’m a teacher and I’d like to think such matters can be taught, though here as elsewhere the Incarnation provides the best possible metaphor: the Ideal is useless until becomes flesh, until it is lived out.
Every July the day arrives — it’s always the 23rd, 24th, or 25th, weather permitting — when I go out in the morning and I see that the shadows have begun to lengthen. Another summer is drawing to a close. The days are still long and warm but the sun has softened its hammer blow and soon enough we will live amid light in August, the only month whose name serves us, richly and well, as an adjective. I don’t know that it’s possible or advisable to live in such a place, with such an intense perception of mortality and time’s passing, but here we are, here I am: July 28th, to be exact.
I had hopes of a swim in one of the lakes of the Abbey of Gethsemani, under a full moon as well as in the rain (for what I hope are obvious reasons, those would be two different swims). I missed the full moon opportunities but yesterday I hopped in the car and drove over to swim in a sweet gentle warm rain, keeping ear and eye peeled for the rumble of thunder or flash of light that would send me splashing to shore.
When I first dove in the rain was churning the lake surface, but it slacked off mid-swim until the water was smooth except for big drops falling from the overhanging trees, the abundant, diverse forest of the temperate jungles of the southern Appalachians — oak, ash, walnut, sycamore, dogwood, Virginia pine, and hackberry, all dense and glistening and hung with wild grapevine as befits a jungle in the rain.
As I swim mist rises from the lake surface to wreathe the rounded top of Forty Acre Knob, visible through the holler carved by the creek that feeds the lake; so called not because its mass covers that much land but from the surname of a sheriff (William Fortyacre) of the late 1800s. (Knowing comments about a son named “Mule” are invited.)
Taking care, giving care — I see that at summer’s beginning I used the first formulation, whereas now at summer’s end I have evolved toward the second. Telling, is it not, that we use both verbs for the same gesture. Who takes, who gives — the caretaker or the person being cared for? What is the nature of this two-way street?