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Sarah Lipton

Sarah Lipton

A Moment of Truth: What is Missing?

Tithonia in Sarahs Garden

Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) in Sarah Lipton's garden

For nearly the first time in six months, due to the pandemic, I sit by a lake, without my children, and pick up a pen and put ink on paper…

It’s not the breeze, or the delicate beauty of gladiolas, or the dip-dive of loons. It’s not sunshine or chatter of strangers. It’s not greed for ink or hunger for sparkly eyes. It’s not diamonded water or children’s laughter.

What’s missing is structured conviviality. What’s missing is the shared joy of communal achievement. What’s missing is the silence after the loon’s haunting call.

Where is the echo? Where the reverberation, the ripple of resonance? Where is the silence before the storm? Where the fish snagged in the beak?

What is it we long for, ultimately, in the end, after the storm, after the chips fall, behind the curtain, under the rug, over the moon, at the end of the rainbow?

Is it, in the end, only a null void, devoid–by definition–of light and life and laughter?

The suddenness of change baffles our finely tuned internal barometer, and we lose ourselves long before we are found.

What’s missing, perhaps, is the sharpness of yellow, the deftness of brown, the richness of orange. We cringe and do not know why. Ruminating relentlessly, resigned to renumeration. But is it enough? Could it ever be?

I strike the spider of the page, daring my lash to slash the complacency of normal.

Grackle tracks in time to chickadee’s deedle and somewhere in all the nothingness of everything this inky mind wends its way back home. Clearing cobwebs, tasting their stench, cleansed by swipe and tickle, the water beckons.

I ask again: What’s missing?

What’s missing is the understanding that underneath the wings of clouds there is space. It takes time for raindrops to fall from their billowy mother-cloud and strike the earth, one dollop at a time. And, speaking of time, it requires time for the earth to open up and soak that water in.

There is a basic fallacy at play. We mistook a human being for the moon. When, in fact, that human was only ever the finger pointing to the moon.

Fallibility is a trait we all share. How could we ever have imagined it to be otherwise? What a sad, sad mistake.

The truth is, we are only air and dirt and water falling back to earth. The truth is, nothing is missing, and everything is missing.

At the clever precipice of this understanding, we have permission, then, to be only all that we are, nothing more, nothing less. We have, in fact, never lacked. We were never bereft, because we were always only ever bereft. We have lost nothing because we never had anything. But, and this is key: we also already have everything we need.

The shape of the landscape can reveal our minds to us. The velveteen reflection of sky in lake can show us the truth. After that, there is only the option to enjoy and trust the dance, because if we don’t, we fall back into the sky.

I get it though, it’s super messy. The trick here, I think, is learning to trust the mess. When we choose to not only acknowledge the disaster, but actually engage with it, that is when we learn. Learning is the process of understanding how flexible and pliable we are, not merely fallible.

It’s all the Hallmark truisms you’ve ever read: what bends cannot break. And so, as you’ve heard, we have no choice, really, but to lean into the messy dance.

Of course, you can choose not to. You can live skimming the surface and never even know the deep is right below you. I have seen this, again and again, but what I’ve witnessed tells me each time, that it’s really rather worth the risk of looking beneath the waves.

The Reader’s Digest and Country Magazine version of reality may cutely, seemingly prettily outline the confines of what’s real, but it is so gaggingly shallow that it leaves one no choice but to wish to be other than one is. The inconsistencies and vagaries of life cannot be explained by cute puppy pictures.

There’s a time and place for the entertainment and enjoyment of puppies, but when our world is falling apart, what we need most is to look deeply, darkly below the surface.

Perhaps what’s missing, in the end, is a recognition that nothing is missing. It is up to us to pick up the pieces and weave a more fulfilling tapestry.