Sometimes, it takes until you're twenty-four to learn how magical a swing is.
There's a beach, and a Sunday afternoon, and waves that have crept up on the shoreline year after year. A swingset perches on the sand just yards from the water. I've never sat there; never thought about it. Most Sunday outings I make a beeline straight towards a swing in the shade and stick my nose in a book. But today--
Today a dark-haired friend slips up on a swing, and in the spontaneity of the moment, I follow her. There will be time enough for Egypt and murder and Agatha Christie in an afternoon traffic slump. For now, we swing back and forth, back and forth, and slowly the rhythm returns. I pump my feet to gain height. Gradually, I realize she leans back on the downswing to gain even more height--an old memory from the past that went to the memory dump long ago. I try it, my gauzy skirt fluttering pink in the wind and the sun. My pointed toes reach out--out towards the blue water and a boat on the horizon. A weight presses down on my heart. This is a beauty I never knew about before, the magic of swings by the shoreline. It is the weight of a heart crying without tears because in this moment there is an unquenchable draught of satisfied Sehnsucht, and moments like that should stretch on for an eternity.
We wind our way home, intent on a downtown photo shoot, and as we sit in traffic, Poirot and I continue our reacquaintance in Death on the Nile. I picked it because of the upcoming movie, after being enchanted by Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie and I have a current feud, one I still nurse good-humoredly, about trying to see whether I can beat her prowess or whether she will hoodwink me. When I read on the jacket flap that this is one of her favorite mysteries, I'm even more determined to win. Christie's mysteries are perfect for a mind eager to sharpen itself with a new hobby, following the twists and turns of an investigation, but also relaxing enough to give the mind some rest in the middle of summer vacation. The characters emerge from the shadows. A rich American heiress; an adoring husband; a sullen young woman; a conniving lawyer; a mother and her son. Slowly the shadows fall away and I see the missing puzzle piece. Though I don't get it all this time, I'm proud of myself for catching some parts of the solution, and I want to try again.
A book for leisure provides an undercurrent of challenge and indulgence to the week, but a book for artistry provides something else--soul food. "You should read Austin Kleon," my mom tells me, as I agonize over homework about author branding and how to stay true to my heart while learning useful industry trends. So I pick up her new library book, Keep Going, in the middle of an enforced week of making my mind not obsess over questions. Instead, I read Kleon's thoughts about creativity and mind nurture. They're simple, interspersed with art and poetry, pages of profound mentorship tucked in a tiny square of a book.
While the questions about writing direction buzz in the back of my mind, I go to another coffee shop to drink a life-changingly yummy blend of pomegranate kiwi boba tea and plot another story. It's a spur-of-the-moment challenge. "We should all give each other a prompt," we say, and scuttle off to Pinterest to find something slightly weird and wonderful to inspire each other with. My picture has a man and a woman on the beach with a crack running through them. The story plan that comes out, scribbled on the back of an old letter, doesn't fit in a schedule, a genre, or a line-up. It's a fantasy about a Greek Orthodox female scientist who loves stargazing and pipes and purple hair. I don't know when it will be begun or if it will be finished, but the joy of blending disparate elements into a living, breathing character are water to my soul. She is mine, and I love her.
It is a week of story binging, both individually and together, as our friend introduces us to Marvel. (We clear seven movies while she's here.) Sometimes there is nothing quite so healing as prayer time and a story binge when my heart is tired and frail. In between stories, we experience the joy of cityscape photo shoots in leather and softer photoshoots with pink and sand. Of window shopping, that ends up with respective prizes of jewelry-making supplies, sushi and macarons, and big, pink peonies. Of nights talking about Enneagram personalities and a Bible study of how to walk through hard life emotions.
These are the smallest graces that weave together into largest grace. They are straight from a kindly Father who has led us into desert and promised land this year in equal measure. This week, as in every week, he feeds my mind with truth and my soul with beauty and my heart with gladness. This week he touches everywhere my eyes see with joy.
Perhaps I have underestimated too long the magic of a swing by the shore.