We are at sitting at the butcher block kitchen island. There are jammy knives and the remnants of scrambled eggs on cream colored plates in between Ball jars of markers, snippets of paper, and an Elmer’s glue bottle without a cap. We are making things, or more accurately, he is. Specifically, he is making a chart for what he needs remember before heading out the door in the morning to first grade. (Did you catch that? FIRST. GRADE. !)
Now he looks up from coloring, and sees that I’m looking at a slideshow of photos from Hurricane Irene. The damage in the southern part of my gorgeous state is devastating. Roads entirely washed out, dairy barns under water, the corn stained with mud up to its silken ears, businesses destroyed. His eyes grow wide as he leans on his elbows across the table, looking at a picture of a road that looks like it is made of fondant icing instead of asphalt, rippling and soft where it isn’t under water.
“I wonder why God decided to do this,” he says, with the same thoughtful tone he uses to ask about why or how something is wired, or engineered; as though there has to be a perfectly rational reason behind this too. And then he says,
“I thought when God made the first rainbow it was a promise that he wouldn’t wash the whole world away again.”
I stop clicking through the images and look up, straight into his beautiful big-eyed face. His eyes are green and brown like the late summer fields. He has glue on his fingers. He wants answers.
Bible stories aren’t something that come up around our house much. While I am deeply spiritual, I find religion hard to share with my sons: the boxes of formal religion feel too narrow, the definitions too finite for the inexplicable, glorious forces that make this green earth, this miraculous universe, these complex human beings that we are with tendons and marrow and breath and the capacity to torture and make love, to hoard and meditate, to pray and kill and consume. How can there possibly be a single story that is big enough for this?
Still, in this moment I want to say something to him that makes sense. That reassures. That explains. That offers something tangible to this sweet boy of mine who has somehow heard the beautiful story of Noah’s arc and held it in his heart, lightly, gently, as truth. And maybe it is. Who am I to say? I have only been here on this earth a very brief while. Thirty three years doesn’t feel long enough to make any kind of claims.
I shrug slightly, and say, “I wonder too.”
I can’t explain global warming, or how we’re all directly a part of this picture. I don’t tell him how there are worse things than farms with roads torn out by floods. Lybia, Sudan, Somalia. What I know is this: That to love this greenly leafing earth matters. And this is how I know how to pray, outdoors, touching the ground, running barefoot down our newly graded road, which is what we do, eating wild grapes that stain our fingers, and gathering pinecones, each with its miraculous Fibonacci spiral. Yes. This is wonder. This is the only way I know to make any sense at all of anything: to be right here, touching the ground, finding quarts pebbles that sparkle like stars.