Sigh. How could I miss a person's company when I've never really had it?
Today is one of those necessary days, just after a wave breaks, when everything seems strange and as if the world might be changing. The pause between the highest point on the shore, and the retreat back to the ocean. I want to be held by the ocean again, if the shore is always going to be so loose and shifting beneath me.
This afternoon, I went for a walk in the park and picked up a small stone, which kept me company. Every time I hold it, I start to sing that Madonna song, "Give me faith, give me joy, my boy, I will always cherish you..." It helped to ground me.
I've been thinking about what it means to "cherish" something or someone. I suppose the most common definition is to hold dear or think of fondly--to cherish a memory, cherish a keepsake or a smile. But there is also a way in which cherish means to care for something tenderly, to nurture it. To cherish something or someone is not simply to passively enjoy it--the word embraces a potential to be active, to reach out into the world to encourage connection, intimacy and growth. It is, perhaps, a lot like love. We might love things which are beautiful and complicated, which push us beyond ourselves and challenge us to be selfless. But when we cherish something, it is usually something simple, small, maybe even unimpressive or taken for granted--its beauty lies in our willingness to treasure it for its potential. The cheap, tarnished locket our first love gave to us, full of intention and the romance of stepping outside ourselves for the first time. A newborn, too squirmy and wrinkled to give anything in return for his mother's love except the great and beautiful potential that he will live, that he will continue to be just what he is and, in being just that, that he will live one day into that unexpected, imperfect perfection. What we cherish is useless to us--and yet, somehow, just the fact that it exists, that it is present to us, fits a space that we have left open, fulfills something in our longing that perhaps we never even knew we had. In some ways, what we cherish is always distant, far away.
When I turn the stone over in my fingers, humming that Madonna song to myself, I think I understand a little better what I'm feeling. I sigh, feeling the world shifting over and under me, and my sigh becomes a kind of respite, a safe place. I draw all that I cherish into that haven between each breath. I do not want to be a savior--I'm not up to that task. But that does not mean that I do not want what is beautiful and simple to be protected, to be loved and to be allowed to continue being what it is.
Maybe what I miss is not this person's company, exactly, but the opportunity to cherish the presence of what is simple and beautiful. The chance to open up that space in me into which a simple beauty fits.
Today is a day for sighing. The sound of retreating waters, the sand moving, and the wings of terns on the horizon.