What Almost Was

We came so close to doom. So close, and if we hadn’t turned it around through compromise, work, and loss, I wouldn’t be sitting here scolding my grandchildren about playing in the garden. They look to me with bright, curious eyes, barely abashed. I can’t make myself scold them too strongly — they were raised with confidence, not fear. I’d rather rip out my own heart than break that sunny surety.

My grandparents lived in a time of such great fear. Even I don’t know how to feel that afraid, that certain that the future would be so much worse than the present. They feared disease, the rising tides, poverty, and each other. They closed their ears and eyes until they could only hear their own panicked heartbeats. I feel so sorry for them. Then, after sorrow, immense gratitude.

Why? Because it changed. They changed. I don’t know what turned it around. I don’t know what made them open their senses to each other, to see how interconnected we all are. The bravery, the sheer vulnerability — there’s a reason we treat Founders’ Day with such awe. It’s deserved. Every rite and song, deserved and far too little.

Now we don’t fear, we plan. We learn and implement. My son fixes solar panels on our neighbor’s farm, and for that, we receive vegetables and milk. My daughter trades her woven rugs for seeds. Her wife maintains our water stores and hatchery. We sell medicinal flowers at the Gathering Place, and my grandchildren don’t know where work ends and play begins.

Today’s a sunny day. I rock in my chair after waving the children back to their games. Later, I’ll can tomato sauce and spicy peppers, and preserve some lemons so we can taste that salty brightness all the year through. For now I think I’ll take a little nap, though. We can do that now. I know I am cared for as I sleep.

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