Early Morning Revelations

I present to you, the third place winning essay of the 2011 Bo Carter Memorial Writing Contest.

Early Morning Revelations
by D.L. Marriott

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I dip my foot into the water. I expect it to be chilly this early in the morning. I’m surprised by its warmth. I turn the canoe over, put a book encased in a plastic zip-top bag, a travel mug full of coffee, and a life-preserver in the bottom. I paddle my way through the channel and onto the lake. The sun has just begun its rise over the horizon. The sky is painted with hues of pink and orange. There is no one else out here. I expected to run into a fisherman or two, it seems impossible that this morning they are absent.
Once I’m in a place where I have the most room to drift, I slide down into the bottom of the canoe, and take out my book. There is nothing to interrupt me from my story. There is a highway not too far away, but at five A.M. on a Sunday morning there is little traffic. The muffled sound of the occasional car only barely gets my notice.
But then I hear a rumble that gets louder and louder, disturbing my peace. It’s a train on a not too distant set of tracks. On such a quiet morning, its clattering is intrusive, disturbing. I stop reading and cringe at how it dispels my ideal of relaxing, drifting aimlessly on the water. Before long the rumbling fades away; my solitude returns.
Now that my attention has been torn away from the book in my hand, I take notice of what’s around me. The lake is still, not a ripple on it other than those created by a family of ducks swimming by. My ears pick up the serenade of frogs, early morning birds, and the occasional splash of a jumping fish. There is a heron standing on the shore. His profile is majestic. At first he is so still that I’m not sure if he is real or a garden ornament. Just when I have convinced myself he cannot be real, he moves his head, turning it towards me.
I start thinking about how I would have missed him had the train not caused me to look up from my book. How sometimes we don’t realize what’s around us because we’re too busy doing something else. How much sitting in this boat, floating along, is so much like life.
It starts out with the trip up the channel. Paddling is work. It’s not horrible work. In a way, I enjoyed the challenge of working to get where I wanted to go. It’s very much like when we were young, working hard to raise a family. It was work, sometimes hard work. But we were heading in the direction we wanted to go. It didn’t all go smoothly. We occasionally had to shake the weeds from our paddles.
But then as our children grew up, we got to a place where we thought we could relax and enjoy life. Drift along, instead of working so hard. We thought we were coming to our perfect destination. We knew and accepted the mild disturbance of the car whizzing by, but it was so fleeting it barely registered. It isn’t until something really shatters our silence that we take notice. Something big and intrusive like a freight train comes barreling into our world. Momentarily we wonder why. Why, when we finally have what we were dreaming of, does something big and ugly have to ruin it?
Like the train that disrupts my peaceful morning in my canoe, the things that disrupt our lives eventually pass. They rumble off into the distance. In their wake, we realize that there was beauty and peace all around us. It had been there all along, but we had been too preoccupied to appreciate it. Now in the deafening silence of the train’s absence, it is wondrous. It’s a lesson in appreciating all we have and realizing that bad things will come along, but they will pass, and we will still be here drifting on an unseen current. If by chance we are not happy with where the current is taking us, all we have to do is work up some muscle and paddle in another direction, and remember to take stock in the beauty around us.
We can’t banish the weeds, the cars and the freight trains of life. We can just close our eyes and wait for them to pass, then keep on paddling to our destination, never forgetting that there are always ducks and frogs, sunrises and herons, if we just take the time to recognize them.

 

Borrowing

As promised here’s the story that was published one year ago. It may have been my first, but I’m hoping and planning on many others.

Borrowing
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There are friends and then there are real friends. The kind of friends you can depend on to be there through all the highs and lows of your life. My husband and I are lucky enough to have friends such as these. To be honest they started out as my husband’s friends first, I was adopted later.
Jim’s been best buddies with John since they were both five years old. As children they shared in all those adventures that young boys have; building forts, walking the train tracks, riding their bikes. As they got older they got their first jobs together, worked on cars together, and got into trouble together. Over the years their friendship had it’s ups and downs. Their high school graduation night ended in fists, but in the end, they always came back to each other. When they got to adulthood they started dating and eventually found their future wives. In some relationships, that may have added a strain to the friendship, but in this case it didn’t. First John married Sue, and later Jim married me. Sue and I have been mistaken as sisters, which says something about how close our husbands are. There must be something special in a friendship that has lasted almost their entire lives. Instead of two best friends and their wives, we quickly became four best friends.
As close as we are, we’re always borrowing something from one another. There never seems to be a time in which one of us doesn’t have something that belongs to the other. If it’s not some borrowed item, it’s borrowed money. We often go out to dinner or shopping together and to make things easier, we trade off who pays for it. One time we will cover the bill, the next time they will. We’ve been doing this so long, we no longer keep track of what we owe each other, we just figure it all evens out in the end. Sometimes we get to the point of getting the check at a restaurant and say, “It’s our turn, we owe you for something.”
None of us will remember what we owe, or even what it was we owe for, just that it’s our turn. Over the years, we took notice of this habit of one always borrowing from the other. We asked ourselves why that was. In the end we decided it was our way of insuring we would get together again.
We’ve been there for each other as we got married, Jim was John’s Best Man, and John was Jim’s. John and Sue moved away for a time, but the long distance phone call was one of the first as each of our children were born. Once back in the same state, we were there to share the trials of moving and house building and the joys of our children growing, graduating, and getting married. We travel together, and jump in to help with any project. We were there to support them through the loss of a parent, grandparent, brother-in-law, and friend. They were there for us through the loss of a parent.
They played a most important role in our lives. They were always there for us when our disabled and medically fragile son was ill. They didn’t think twice about coming to wait with us in the middle of the night as he underwent emergency surgery. They forced us to go out for a bite to eat after we spent days in his hospital room. They kept us sane during the 16 years of medical crises. They were there to give us support in his final days, and helped to plan his memorial service. I can’t imagine a more heartbreaking time in our lives, and they were there for us. I know it was difficult for them. How hard must it be to sit with your friends as they wait for their son to take his last breath? It didn’t matter how hard it was, we weren’t just friends, we were family, we are family. I truly believe there is nothing we wouldn’t do for each other, barring the impossible. At a moment’s notice, we we’ll drop everything for each other. Our families have become each others families.
Recently my husband and I were affected by the poor economy. We were forced to sell our dream home. This house was one that my husband, an architect, designed just for us. We built this house ourselves. We didn’t just watch the contractors work, we put our sweat and backs into it as well. It took a year to build. John and Sue were there every step of the way, painting walls, laying tile, hauling rocks, whatever it took.
The process of selling this house has been an emotional one. The equity in that house was to be our nest egg. We were starting over. It’s hard enough to lose your home, another when that home is also one’s livelihood. It’s my husband’s business to design and build houses, now we would be living in someone else’s. First John and Sue were there as moral support. Then they were there to help us pack and move in a hurry as we scrambled to find a place to live. We even traded vehicles for weeks as theirs had a hitch to pull a trailer. They were with us when we looked at houses, and they gave up their weekends to help us transfer our belongings.
On the last day of moving we returned each others cars. But in typical fashion we found John’s sunglasses on our counter. Sometimes the “borrowing” was unintentional. It didn’t matter, as long as one of us had some belonging to the other.
The next morning my husband woke up to realize we had forgotten some large items that were stored outside our former home. Since we had already given John and Sue their van back, we were forced to call first thing in the morning to ask if they had the time to come back and help move the forgotten items. Sue answered the phone. John was in the garage, he had the tire off of the needed van, and was about to start a brake job on it. She stuck her head out the door and yelled “STOP!” No questions asked, John popped the tire back on and came right over.
When it was done and John was about to leave, he grabbed his sunglasses. As he took them Jim said, “I think we all have everything that belongs to each of us.” John said, “Oh no, does that mean we won’t get together anymore?”
We laughed, albeit a bit nervously. As if it really takes borrowing things from each other to make sure we would see each other again. As much as we have been through, it’s silly to think that it’s a simple borrowed item that keeps us together. Yet why did we feel uncomfortable?
After John left, I suddenly remembered something. I looked at Jim and said, “Don’t worry, we still have that DVD I borrowed from Sue.” With an unfounded sense of relief we knew all is as it should be. Our friendship is guaranteed to live another day.