Friday, June 4, 2010

The In-Between Space

He was watering flowers, and now he's gone.

I don't know him.  I never met him.  I would see him now and again as I drove past - working outside, weeding, mowing the lawn, or leaning back for a stretch with one hand kneading his lower back.    I didn't even know him well enough to wave.

He was watering his flowers, and then there was his picture in the paper, and he's gone.   Natural causes, it said.  

A thought flashed through my brain - who is going to water his flowers? -  and then the dog barked or the phone rang or a kid needed a cup of juice, and thoughts of the man and his flowers vanished as I sped onto the next thing.

The next thing.   There's always a next thing.   The world flashes by - a man, his flowers - but I'm in motion, no time to stop.  I'm mentally closing the chapter on the last thing and ticking of what needs to be done for the next.   And the next.  Chop chop, hurry up, we'll be late.


It is morning, and I'm trying to get Finn in the car.  He's dawdling, and we're late for his preschool.    I'm preoccupied with getting to the gym before the crowds.  If I miss it by five minutes I'll have to wait to get on my favorite machine.

Finn is crouched over, nose mere centimeters from the driveway.   He is leaning over so far his little backpack is resting on his head.   One sock pulled all the way up, one scrunched down, his pudgy boy knees peppered with dirt.   He is watching an anthill, all the industrious little creatures marching in and out, oblivious to the hulking mass hovering just above them.

"COME ON, Finn!  In the car.   Now!"  I huff.

He blows the ants a kiss and scrambles into the car.   I check my watch - if I can get there in ten minutes and I can still beat the crowds. 

I drive too quickly down the street, turn the corner, and unconsciously look for the man outside.   But, of course, he isn't there.   His flowers shine in the sunlight, still standing up straight, unaware that their days are likely numbered.    The man with the water is gone.

"Sometimes, you open your eyes but you can't see da world."   Finn sings from the backseat.   "You open your eyeeeess  but you can't seeeeeee da world."

I ask him what he is singing, but he doesn't answer, just keeps on singing:  "and dat's just da way it is, sometimes, wif da world."

I ask him again where he learned that song, and he shrugs.   He doesn't know.   He made it up in his brain, he says.

I pull into a parking space and close my eyes.   Images rise up - the man, the ants, the flowers, little pudgy boy knees - of the beauty that lives in the space between the last thing and the next thing.

The in-between space.

"What you thinking about Momma?   Did you fahget something?" 

Yes, I did.


  1. Oh my, out of the mouths of babes...

  2. Wow, E! Very powerful stuff. I love slowing down to notice the in-between. Calms me down and helps me appreciate.

  3. This was such a beautiful read. Painfully so. Thank goodness for little ones and their words.

  4. hmmmm .... pause .... thanks for the reminder :)

  5. Can I say "Ditto" to Corrine? I'm featuring it (as a link) in my Sunday Morning Post!

  6. His song gives me goosebumps.

  7. That was stunning, Ellie. Thanks for sharing this moment of grace. I got chills. Amy

  8. sorry to hear about your neighbor. I certainly hope that someone keeps up his flowers. I remember the lady who lived next door to us when we were little. She always had the nicest gardens. After she passed away, a new guy moved in & the gardens were left to die out. It made me so sad & a little angry with him for not taking care of Mrs. Metee's flowers.
    That Finn. What a cute little man.

  9. Wow, E! Very powerful stuff. I love slowing down to notice the in-between. Calms me down and helps me appreciate.