A Place Between Two Birds

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As I sit here looking at the two blue  porcelain birds quietly sitting next to our black mesh-wire candle holder, holding a vanilla candle, I stop to contemplate the moment, the time in between going from one lesson plan idea to the next. It was the smell of vanilla that stopped me in my mental tracks. If you don’t have a large vanilla candle or one in your own favorite scent, I might suggest purchasing one.

Mine sits on the ledge between our dining nook and our living room. And it’s literally a dining nook; dining room is much too generous, but it’s good enough. It’s a space to eat that out’s of the traffic of the comings and goings of a seven-year-old boy, who is often running from outside to in and then back again, trailing grass and tiny bits of dirt with him. Does the book, No David ring a bell to anyone? If not, it’s cool. And if so, then you can see the visual of David tromping through his house.

Anyhoo, the candle. That’s where I was. The wafting smell of a candle is what lifted me out of the focused bubble that seems to encase me when I am on the computer. After the scent arrived, I looked up to see the two birds and thought how lovely this moment is. I am always more stressed when I am teaching, and having my son Asher home for the summer adds more tension. But there are still moments of stillness that arrive where I can freeze time.

Suddenly, I can hear the lazy cars drifting by our bay window to my right. I can hear the birds chirping as they fly from one fir tree to the next. I can hear my son and his neighborhood friends screaming in the excitement of four-square, bickering over who’s out and who’s not. I can hear the sound of my husband turning off the mower and joining in the boy’s playful squabble.

All of these things are always here to take in and enjoy, no matter what else is happening. Even when I am worried about money and bills. Even when I am unsure how to stuff a semester’s worth of learning into an eight-week summer term. Even when…all the other stuff seems looming out there: the dishes, the laundry, my own personal hygiene for Christ’s sake. I haven’t even taken a shower, and it’s nearly 2:00 p.m.

In the background, beyond the candle and birds, Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird sits on the faux fireplace mantle in our living room, another reference to taking things slow. A scene that seems too staged to be an accident, and yet it is.

In her book, Ms. Lamott reminds us to take things “bird by bird,” or one small step at a time, a message that arrived to me by way of a scented vanilla candle this afternoon. And suddenly, the space between two porcelain birds arrives, the one that’s been waiting for me to notice, calling me to stop, to be still, to take in what I have accomplished. To inhale.

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It took me a long while to consider the title for this blog. I wanted something that defined me both as a person and a writer. A name that would also perhaps speak to a particular audience. Why “The Astronaut Wife?” Since my early days of blogging, I have leaned toward more of a confessional style of writing, to some degree. I write as much truth as I can muster at each phase of life. In addition, I also come from a conservative Southern family, and I have grown very far from those roots. You could say I have rocketed to the moon in terms of my upbringing. I have rocketed away from debilitating family dynamics, from worldviews that held me beneath a rock. In my thirties, and now my early to mid-forties, I have learned to live more comfortably with both sides of the moon and write just as much about the raw, dark places as the light ones. Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s quite likely I will lean more heavily toward one or the other depending on which way the wind is blowing. Then, we get to the wife part, and quite frankly, this is where the feminist in me bucked and brayed. Identifying myself as “wife” has felt simply stymieing, particularly since becoming a mother six and a half years ago. But if the truth is going to be told, being a wife to my particular husband has altered my entire shape and has given voice to much of the inner deep. So in fact, becoming a wife was the singular most life-changing moment for me in my journey to the moon and back. Fellow travelers, you can feel safe and comfortable here. What matters more than what you might “get” about me is what you might take for yourself.

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