In December, winter finally feels real. Our yard is a red field of pine needles I can’t keep raked. Even in Louisiana, the air has turned cold enough to hurt. Today, my daughter and I walk around our neighborhood. Ellie wears her new blue coat and last year’s pink scarf. She twirls and leaps between the pinecones and acorns that garland the road. Sometimes, we hold hands and leap into the leftovers of autumn, pressing against what has fallen away, hoping for a satisfying crunch beneath our soles. Our neighbor’s chimney unfurls thick woolly plumes. We suck in the good and cold smoky air. Everywhere we are bombarded with choices to notice and connect, to make contact with the season we are in.
On our walks, Ellie and I read the sounds and smells and images surrounding us. I want to teach her how important it is to notice well, to expect to encounter the sacred and profound between the lines of sidewalks strewn with acorns and leaves. As we walk, a poem spins in my mind, and connects itself to this moment I am 34 years-old and holding the hand of my six-year-old daughter as we walk slowly down our street. My mentor and friend, Jeanne Murray Walker, wrote the poem. I can hear her voice in each line as I whisper the poem to myself.
“Connections” By Jeanne Murray Walker
After, against, among, around. How I admire prepositions, small as they are, nothing but safety pins, their lives given to connecting. They are paid help, maids in black uniforms who pass hors d’oeuvres. Or better, they’re the joy that leaps between us when we get to know them. Without connection, what can survive? Because the lawn waits for the sun to wake it from its winter nap, we say sunlight lies on the grass. Even the simplest jar connects – jar under moonlight, on counter, jar in water. It was prepositions in the Valley of Dry Bones that stitched the femur to the heel, the heel to the foot bone. And afterwards, they got up to dance. Between, beside, within may yet keep the chins and breasts from tumbling off Picasso’s women. If I could, I would make prepositions the stars of grammar like the star which traveled the navy sky that night sweet Jesus lay in his cradle, pulling the wise and devious kings toward Bethlehem, and us behind them, trekking from the rim of history toward Him.
In its long smooth threading, Jeanne’s poem reveals both how small and resilient are the bridges that connect moments and people and object. Words pull “the wise and devious kings / toward Bethlehem, and us behind them, / trekking from the rim of history toward Him.” Something as small and fragile as a preposition seams time and place and person together. Something as small and fragile as a baby in a manger connects mankind to the miraculous.
When I’m finished whispering the lines, I call Ellie to me and long to remember this moment the way I remember the lines of the poem. I wonder if Ellie will remember any of it at all. The sky darkens, and patchy strings of Christmas lights flicker here and there in neighbors’ yards. Ellie and I follow them like stars. We breathe the cold air and hold bare hands until the cold forces them back into our pockets. In a moment, we reach for each other again.