an island

Stopping by M&N's house before I left for Jamaica (and my brother A3's wedding), 4 year old Maddie and I got to talking and she seemed confused by the idea of me being on an island for a week. "What's an island?"
"Well, it's land that floats in the middle of the ocean."
"But won't the ocean wash over it?"
"Well, the ocean washes up on the shore, but not all over the island."
"But what's an island?"
Beginning to feel like my high school chemistry teacher, I took Maddie's shoe and placed it in the middle of their blue couch, "Maddie, this sandal is the island where I will be staying, and the blue couch is the ocean all around it. See how the island's on top of the ocean, sitting there?"
And then she did that amazing thing that little kids do--she sat and pondered it.

Later that day I again found myself hanging out with Maddie and her family and Mummy Dearest and her family, this time at the lake; after being toweled off Maddie ran up to me and pointed at the buoyantly bobbing diving platform, an anchored floating dock in the lake, "Monster, that's like an island."
"Oh, I'm so glad you were paying attention earlier when I was talking to you,"
 "Oh, Monster, I wasn't paying attention when you were talking, I was listening." I had to laugh because these two things aren't always as synonymous as we'd like to believe.

Anyway, it was that simple observation from Maddie that stuck with me as I traveled to be with my family and see my brother get married, because isn't that all that family is, an island?--a place of rest or entrapment; a place to temporarily dock for a while, to shore up energy for more of life; that which can weather storms and be nearly destroyed, but can also be built-up again too. We grew up and swam away from our island, explored foreign lands, made new niches for ourselves out in the world; the wedding meant being called back to our island and to the island of Jamaica.

Looking at more pictures from the wedding today has left me again feeling grateful, thankful for my time away and thankful for how blessed I am by having my family in my life.
"A child said, What is the grass"
A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
 is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
 green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
 may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
 of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the 
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
 from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
 for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
 and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
 taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
 at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
-- Walt Whitman 


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