family of things

by christie shumate mcelwee

I listen to the rain hit the window, cold late October rain. Lights are flipped on throughout the house. The furnace buzzes during its first full fall day of operation. 

I ponder my place in this crazy family of things. Oldest sister. First daughter. Mother. Step-mother. Wife. Ex-wife. Aunt. Cousin. Grandmother. Friend. Teacher. Writer.

I think of things older than me. Books. Rivers. Trees. Churches. Religions. Laws. Constitutions. Prejudices. Art. Music. Poetry. 

I know I have not always been good. I have often asked forgiveness. I have lived through deep despair. I have risen from the ashes of it. And, yet, I know despair will come again, but so will the rise.

I look at the landscape of my life. I have grown, shrunk, cowered, screamed, cried, disappeared, reappeared, lied, sang, prayed, despised, danced, pondered, studied, loved. Even through the shattering, I have chosen love.

I cling to words as one would frantically grasp a branch while trying not to get swept away by a raging river. Ravishing, heart-breaking, wistful, gasp-worthy words.

I swim against the tide. I gather exquisite shells. I walk leaving damp footprints in the sand. 

I am a mermaid. A witch. A pixie. A kelpie. A peasant. A queen.

I am Mary Oliver. I am Harper Lee. I am Anne Lamott.

I am Me.

I believe in faeries. I believe in hope. I believe in magic.

And I am announcing my place in the family of things.

Wild Geese
 by Mary Oliver

 You do not have to be good.
 You do not have to walk on your knees
 for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
 You only have to let the soft animal of your body
 love what is loves.
 Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
 Meanwhile the world goes on.
 Meanwhile the sound and the clear pebbles of the rain
 are moving across the landscapes,
 over the prairies and the deep trees,
 the mountains and the rivers.
 Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
 are heading home again.
 Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
 the world offers itself to your imagination,
 call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
 over and over announcing your place
 in the family of things.