We are on a late afternoon walk, my 10 year old daughter and I, on this Wednesday afternoon. School and work are done for the day, and we settle into a brief pause before homework and dinner and the evening routines. We walk towards a gravel path that winds over mossy green hills and creaky wooden bridges. One of our favorite routes to walk. Having rained earlier in the day, clouds intermittently come together and dance apart, shadows arrive and shadows disappear, as the sun travels above us.
Sometimes we hold hands, and sometimes she walks ahead or behind, and dances, twirls, spins. She stops for every single dog, many of them now “regulars” for her. She knows each dog by name and breed and is happy to roll around with them, chat with them, pet them and simply love them. She talks non-stop, chatty and full of dog facts interspersed by the little tidbit stories from the day. She is appalled by the owners who walk briskly by even as she stops to say hello, the ones who are on a mission to get somewhere or are exercising, and aren’t able to stop for the dog lovers along the way. Every now and again, she detours off the path to identify the flowers and plants.
She is present, noticing.
Soon, we approach 5:15 pm and it is time to turn around and head back home. There is work to be done. I give her a brief warning, letting her know that we will walk for a couple more minutes, perhaps just to that bend up ahead, and then turn back. She shakes her head no, and asks me for just a little more time. “Please? A few more minutes? How about a few more hours? Okay, a few more days?” She turns around and looks at me, waiting to see me laugh at her desire to walk on for days.
And then, one last imploring question, “How about a few more lifetimes, Mama?”
I pause. Yes. A few more lifetimes.
I will take you up on that offer my love. I would be honored to walk beside you for a few more lifetimes and a few more beyond that if you will have me. I know that sometimes you will walk ahead and sometimes behind. I know that sometimes you will hold my hand, and sometimes you would rather be free. But if you allow me to walk with you for a few more lifetimes, I will gladly be there, always, ready, should you need me. The work of a thousand lifetimes can wait.
We turn around and we walk home. The air has turned a bit brisk, and the wind ripples through the grass and whips our hair around our faces. Shades of deep pink and orange begin to emerge, just as day is tipping to dusk. Our shadows grow long, approaching the same size these days, and soon, her shadow will outgrow mine. The weather turns. The air cools. Cars are rolling home. And the clock ticks on a few seconds more.
I know I must find the grace to balance between this holding on and letting go. I know I must not let her only walk but indeed soar. I know for this moment, I am holding her more than I am surrendering her. And I know we can’t hold each other for lifetimes more… but for now, just for now, I will at least hold onto the hope that maybe we can.
With gratitude, Monisha