what the soul knows

I grew up on the Atlantic, a beach girl. It wasn’t until I was pregnant that I came to appreciate the marsh.

Just after the miscarriage, I abandoned my people at the sea, but on my way out the narrow strip of land that connects the island to the mainland, I pulled over to commune with the verdant greens of the marshland before heading for the mountains.

A Blue Heron looked back at me.

It was my mother who taught me to notice the signs.

I miscarried a second time in the mountains, conceived that child in a rancher beside a pasture filled with cows who woke us early each morning and filled the place with flies.

That ski house was ours “until the snow flies,” and it’s the smell of camphor that I remember most about it, and blood splattered on the ceilings.

“Just one more,” I prodded Casey. “It’s the last one.” It never was.

That place sat above a brook, and there was a brook beside the next place too, only sweeter–the brook and our small farmhouse beside it, caressing one another through winter and into spring, summer into fall and around and around again for 7 years that changed everything.

I conceived both sons in that house. Labored with them there, the second delivered in the tiny bathroom with the gabled dormer; the first transported to the nearest hospital over Hogback Mountain where a novice EMT attempted an IV in my right hand over the bumpy road.

The road from the farmhouse to the highway ran along the mighty Deerfield River which opened into the great Harriman Reservoir. Once or twice, Casey and I rode horseback alongside it, and often rode bikes with a trailer pulling kids.

The boys grew up in a timber-frame the next town over that they helped build just above Neringa Pond.

After a rain, you can hear the Whetstone move through the dam from their bedrooms, and I spend many a morning on the dock between the pond and the brook, letting my attachments go with the rushing water, or at its other end, where the Whetstone sits in meadow-like repose.

“Lay me down beside still waters,” comes to me when I commune with the silence there.

It’s a line from my Nana’s favorite Psalm, read at her graveside.

She was the one who brought me from the beach to her people’s place beside the Indian River Bay.

I never understood what she saw in it. There was no boardwalk. No ice cream trucks. No umbrellas. Nothing but sky and water and marsh and not another soul in sight no matter which direction you looked.

This past April I returned to the place for the first time since the accident. 40 years has transformed 42 wooded acres into more than a dozen waterfront homes with a similarly crowded view no matter which direction you turn, except to face the water.

I had to squint my eyes to feel what I’d once felt there, what I hadn’t known I’d found there.

Instead of joy, I felt distressed to see our old boathouse standing, and a dock in the same place where I stood alone as a girl with the entire world before me.

There are some things that cannot be taught.

There are some things that take time to realize.

There are some things only the soul knows.


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