Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sightseeing (08/08/05)
TITLE: Even Though
By Jan Ackerson
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He draped an arm around my shoulders. “The point, my love, is that you need to get out of the house, and enjoy a place of beauty and peace.”
Too weary to fight, I let him win. He packed our bags, helped me to the van, and chattered for the entire four-hour drive. I simply closed my eyes and let his words flit about the interior of the car and fade away.
When we arrived, I clutched my husband’s arm tightly and we boarded the ferry to the island. The waters of two great lakes splashed and sprayed our faces. Seagulls squawked overhead. For a moment I lifted my face to the sunshine, a feeling I had nearly forgotten. No, I mustn’t let any happiness in…I tucked my chin into my chest.
At the end of the ferry dock, a dozen little shops advertised bicycles for rent. My husband grasped my elbow. “What about a tandem? I know you’d be able to ride one of those! I’ll do all the hard work up front. C’mon, let’s get one!”
“I don’t think…I just can’t.” But his enthusiasm was stronger than my fear, and soon we were pedaling down the busy main street of the island, past souvenir stores, a street performer playing the hammered dulcimer, and confectionaries where the smell of newly-made fudge drifted into the noisy avenue. I heard myself say “Mmmmm”, a sound that came from a place inside me that I hadn’t visited in a long time.
Within minutes we had left the town behind. We stopped at a rocky spot on the shoreline, and my husband held my hand as we carefully made our way to the water. “Honey…let’s wade. Please?” he pleaded. Fresh air seemed to have weakened my resistance; we took off our sandals. The lake was numbingly cold—in just seconds, we were stepping out, laughing and shivering. “What’s that sound?” asked my husband.
“I don’t hear anything…just the lake.” I said. “What are you talking about?”
“I think it was…you laughing? Could that be it?”
Immediately I slammed shut the door to my spirit. “Let’s get back on the bike.”
I said little for the next several minutes, as I studied the feeling now forming somewhere in the vicinity of my heart. I rested my head briefly on my husband’s strong back, and gave the feeling a name: hope.
After a time we approached the part of the island containing historic buildings and a centuries-old fort. In the distance, we heard the make-believe soldiers firing their muskets. Unaccustomed to exercise, my legs ached. We alit and sat on a stone bench. “I’m tired. Can we get something to eat?”
“Just wait here,” said my husband, and before I could protest, he sprinted off in search of food.
“Don’t leave me!” I cried. Utterly alone, I hugged my knees and bowed my head. Don’t let anyone talk to me…It wasn’t a prayer, really—I hadn’t talked to God since the accident. But the posture and the petition felt familiar, like times of prayer I’d known in the past. I relaxed and waited for my lunch, gradually becoming aware of a voice I’d been ignoring for weeks.
Isn’t this beautiful? He whispered. Do you hear the water, and the birds, and the horses’ hooves? Can’t you feel the breeze, and the grass at your feet? And take a deep breath—can you smell the flowers, and even the dirt? Can you be thankful for these things?
“But Lord,” I whimpered. “I can’t see them. I’ll never see them again. You just don’t understand what it’s like to be blind!”
My child, I understand all things. I have wept with you, and now I long to rejoice with you. I give and I take away, and my ways are not your ways…but I want you to trust me, and praise me. Even though. Even though. I am enough. Beloved, I am enough.
When my husband returned with the ice cream, I turned my head toward his voice. A smile lit my face, not entirely due to the waffle cone of mint chocolate chip that he pressed into my hand.
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