prayer for comings and goings
gy·ro·scope /’jira-skop/ n. a device used to provide stability or maintain a fixed direction, consisting of a wheel or disk spinning rapidly about an axis that is free to alter in direction. a device for measuring or maintaining orientation and angular velocity. it is a spinning wheel or disc in which the axis of rotation is free to assume any orientation by itself.
“device for maintaining orientation.”
sometimes i think my job is to be the human gyroscope. to keep it all straight. to keep all afloat. at speeds all their own. above all: to maintain orientation.
sometimes, even my own.
today is one of those days when the gyroscope in me is working overtime. before i was even awake i was tracing the map in my head of where people i love — children i love — are scattering today. one is climbing into a van with a van full of friends and a summer’s worth of clothes and rolling from new haven, to new york, to washington, to the rolling hills of virginia, then back to d.c. for a long, hard summer playing like a tv lawyer.
yet another of my kids (there are only two, lest i make it sound as if there are dozens and dozens) is marching into his last friday of high school. then he and the little flock i’ve come to love (as if my own), they are scattering like pool balls all across the country: wisconsin, new york, indiana, michigan, ohio, and, yes, illinois. (how apt that the heartland is draped in these particular boys, a heart-filled flock if ever there was.)
years back, when my firstborn headed off to massachusetts, and i stayed behind in sweet chicago, i got my first taste of this re-mapping that mamas do. i imprinted the hills of western massachusetts, pioneer valley, into my imagination. i knew the streets and inclines he loped day after day. and as i’d talk to him, the pictures in my head traveled along. on days when i wasn’t talking to him, i imagined where he trekked. you learn, when you’re someone who loves faraway, how to plunk yourself far far from where you dwell. the size of the space inside your head, it reaches as far as it needs to stretch. adds a live pulsing dot onto the map of the globe. you find yourself scanning the news for hot spots near any one of your very own dots. but mostly, you unreel a whole new reel of picture shows, one for each faraway someone you love.
i woke up this morning wanting more than anything to do like i’d always done when they were little, and we were about to go on a road trip. we’d pile into the wagon, check all the seatbelts, shuffle the water jug away from their feet, be sure the snack bag was reachable. then, before i shifted the car into reverse, we all paused, bowed our heads and muttered the mixed-up prayer that was our own: “holy garden angels protect us.” (one of us once dropped a syllable in guardian and it’s stuck ever since.)
this morning my prayer would be a bit more complex. it’s been nuanced over the years, textured with shadow, with depth and, yes, patches of darkness. the pleadings are at once as unfettered as ever — please let us land safe and whole wherever it is we’ve set out to go — and far more intricate, taking into account the particular inclines and tight mountain passages that come when the journeys are of the real-world, unchaperoned, higher-altitude ilk.
my instinct — no matter how far from home the journey begins — is always to reach toward the ones i so love, spread my arms and my safe-keeping prayers across and around them. i picture the prayer shawl, the one we draped over their shoulders the day they first chanted the Torah, the one we’ve pulled off the shelf for each of their blessings. all these years and journeys later, it’s the sacred cloth i yearn to lay on their shoulders, to wrap round their backs, as they bow their sweet heads, and my job — my holiest job — is to anoint them with my prayers. and my love.
dear holy God, God of adventure and challenge, God of steep inclines and precipitous drops, dear God, steady their footfall. soften the blows. dial up the everyday triumphs and occasional joys. most of all, bring them home, safe and sound and whole. and, yes, steady me, as i try my hardest to maintain orientation. no matter what comes.
amen. and with love.
what’s your prayer for comings and goings?
Holding close you and all your boys, with all kinds of prayers and love. ❌⭕️❤️
love you. thank you. xoxox
Because a mother’s prayers are uniquely powerful, I am confident that the shawl you’ve placed around your sons is a formidable shield. With all the love in my heart, I echo your prayers, certain that Divine Love is receiving them in stereo… Holding hands with you, holding each one of you in Holy Light. Peace to your sweet, sweet heart… xoxoxo
bless you, my tender heart friend. imagine the heavenly sound as a whole chorus of murmured, from-the-heart prayers echo and echo and echo. more than blessed to know our voices entwine and echo together. xoxoxo
Good thing God chose you to be the anchor of their ‘adventures and challenges’ as well as ‘steep inclines and precipitous drops’. None better.
bless you. I am the one who’s blessed — to keep watch and keep love over the two i call my own.
because i so believe in the edifying possibility of these comments — shared snippets and bits of conversation, left on the virtual kitchen table — i am tiptoeing back to leave this here, a poem i just read for the first time, from the brilliant brilliant marilyn nelson.
in that way i so love, it doesn’t overlap precisely with what’s above, but it intersects just enough to broaden and deepen the conversation, the inquiry. i hope you find this as beautiful and haunting as i have….
BY MARILYN NELSON
I have no answer to the blank inequity
of a four-year-old dying of cancer.
I saw her on t.v. and wept
with my mouth full of meatloaf.
I constantly flash on disasters now;
red lights shout Warning. Danger.
everywhere I look.
I buckle him in, but what if a car
with a grille like a sharkbite
roared up out of the road?
I feed him square meals
but what if the fist of his heart
should simply fall open?
I carried him safely
as long as I could,
but now he’s a runaway
on the dangerous highway.
I’ve started to pray.
But the dangerous highway
curves through blue evenings
when I hold his yielding hand
and snip his miniscule nails
with my vicious-looking scissors.
I carry him around
like an egg in a spoon,
and I remember a porcelain fawn,
a best friend’s trust,
my broken faith in myself.
It’s not my grace that keeps me erect
as the sidewalk clatters downhill
under my rollerskate wheels.
Sometimes I lie awake
troubled by this thought:
It’s not so simple to give a child birth;
you also have to give it death,
the jealous fairy’s christening gift.
I’ve always pictured my own death
as a closed door,
a black room,
a breathless leap from the mountain top
with time to throw out my arms, lift my head,
and see, in the instant my heart stops,
a whole galaxy of blue.
I imagined I’d forget,
in the cessation of feeling,
while the guilt of my lifetime floated away
like a nylon nightgown,
and that I’d fall into clean, fresh forgiveness.
Ah, but the death I’ve given away
is more mine than the one I’ve kept:
from my hand the poisoned apple,
from my bow the mistletoe dart.
Then I think of Mama,
her bountiful breasts.
When I was a child, I really swear,
Mama’s kisses could heal.
I remember her promise,
and whisper it over my sweet son’s sleep:
When you float to the bottom, child,
like a mote down a sunbeam,
you’ll see me from a trillion miles away:
my eyes looking up to you,
my arms outstretched for you like night.
Marilyn Nelson, “Mama’s Promise” from Mama’s Promises. Copyright © 1985 by Marilyn Nelson.
Dearest Gyroscope: Should said almost lawyers need a place to rest around the DC beltway, I’ve fresh oatmeal cookies and Harvard and BC 2Ls awaiting them!
You are the VERY BEST, law mama!!! We actually found him a place next door to our beloved Tabard Inn, where he once celebrated his fifth birthday. But I will tell him to point his hungry tummy toward your house!! Have you filled your house with law students for the whole summer? Anyone working at Gibson Dunn????