An Anniversary Wish to My Wife
The woods ran up to the edge of the pond and every Spring the snow melt would reveal old trees that had crashed to the ground in the Winter freeze. We would pick our way around the sodden husks, pull rotten rotten branches loose and talk about which trunks would dry out firm and hard in the summer heat. Those were the ones we would use to make a raft.
I was fascinated by rafts. When I read Huck Finn, I studied the drypoint etchings to divine how the logs had been lashed together so firmly that it held together as it spun down the Mississippi. I saved the pictures of aboriginal rafts in National Geographic. I practiced slip knots and bowlines on old rope in our barn, hanging from the end of the mismatched strand to see if the knots could hold my weight.
We wanted to make a raft so we could go out to the little island in the middle of Robin’s Pond. We were afraid to walk out to it in the winter. The grown-ups told us stories about people who had fallen through the ice and died.
In the summer, we would pull logs to the edge of the pond and lash them together. Sometimes the raft was too heavy to move. Other times, the logs came apart as we dragged the raft down the shore. One time we got the raft in the water and it sank like a dead weight.
As so often happens to our childish dreams, my romance with rafts drifted into the land of metaphor. The raft became an image for life, the platform that we make our stand on against the roiling waves, the beating sun, the dark, dark ocean night. Life is being alone on the raft, bobbing up and down, drawing strength from what we witness.
These metaphors that worm their way into our lives are insidious and intransigent. They become a way of thinking that is too familiar and too little questioned.
When I reached the middle of my life, I’d been riding on that raft all alone with an ignorant certitude that there was no space for anyone else.
I never thought back to those images that had fascinated me. The image of Huck and Jim. The image of the brown-skinned men standing tall over their women and children. The image of two little children floating under the watchful eyes of Winkin, Blinkin and Nod.
Then Tami came into my life and nudged my hip bone with hers. “Move over,” she said. She sat down and looked up at the sky. “I’m riding with you.”
One imagination can make enough space to contain itself, can hold together a little raft that gets tossed along with the flotsam of Life’s big storm.
Two imaginations can make a world.
Ever since she put her shoulder to mine, settled herself by my side, I’ve watched that raft magically expand to calm the waters, to lengthen the horizon, to bring the world closer, to smooth out the dark clouds, to soften the sun.
We’re still sitting in the same place, but everything around us has changed.
Thanks for coming to sit on my raft with me, baby.