Precarious Kites
(Grace Notes)
What We Want > Trill

Grace-Notes #2 - ran on Sunday: 12/27/04

Natalie Costanza-Chavez


Moon low, white sky. The boys come in from outside. They tumble and splay down the hall all elbows, “ooof”, and knees. Boots off in a thud of heel-toe-heel-toe-kick and coats, slick with melted ice, don’t make it to the hooks. Thudding, they are off, in soggy stocking feet, to play run-jump-twirl in the basement. I come in behind them. Things to carry. Things to carry. The hall is cold and has been empty of people all day. I scoop gloves and hats and move on into the house, toward the freezer, the stove. A red light blinks on the phone. The white mail pile I put on the table tips over and slides like slow, dry, snow to the ground. I am trying to settle, though all the while moving. The dog, motionless by day, is circling and wagging underfoot, beside me, happy. Coat on the back of the chair, I pull out a pot for the stove. Boil water – my options will become clear from there. Rice. Spaghetti. Instant soup. I take a breath, palm a spoon for stirring though I haven’t decided just what to cook and the mental list of “shoulds” begins…. all I should do and all I should be…all I will do and all I will be. I will rebuild myself. Better. Stronger. Faster. After all, it is almost New Year’s Eve.

I hear the boys in waves – gleeful still. Water at a gentle boil, I cut onions with a sharp knife, let oil and garlic bloom across a pan and the moment changes over from afternoon to darkness. It comes toward the windows, orange light and then gone like a ghost – lamp time - vespers. And we snap switches on all over town. As our rooms turn dove gray we call light into service. Illuminate.

Early evening, late December and a small song plays in my ear. Only one note, really. A whole note, long low and full of grace. I hear it as the wail-whirl of time and years and ache. Late December, the time for reconciliation. Across this country we are gazing out of darkening windows and thinking suddenly of all we want to be. We imagine ourselves wholly good: we imagine ourselves slimmer and smarter and nicer and whole. We imagine regular trips to a gym, healthy food, speaking only gently. We imagine more time, more patience, more compassion. We imagine saving money for rain. We imagine perfect wisdom, unwavering faith, and only peace. We can almost hear ourselves rising like a full song, sweet and clean.

And perhaps this is the only resolution we need at year’s end: to listen to what we want to be signing deeply in our chest, to discover it at each day’s end in a moment of stillness. Perhaps this is enough: to pray in whatever way we can – over a pot of hot water, onion knife in hand, or driving home late in traffic, or alone on a couch lampless and afraid. Perhaps it is enough to pray for graceful notes, to pray for the whole notes, to pray until we feel the sound-shake of God run through us. Late December, a time for reconciliation with ourselves: we imagine, we pray, and then we walk quietly in the prayer’s direction.

Deep in the house the boys trill and vibrate – they will grow in a blink, in a breath, in “the click of a mouse” as my son says. I will never be as good as I want to be. But, God plants his foot in the music – anyway and always – all we need to do is want to sing as best we can.