It's Saturday, a family day.
We drove to the canyon, where creeks are carved spillingly into the mountain, refracting thousands of suns. The autumn is even more advanced at this altitude: mostly canary yellow and gold for now, sunlight igniting their bobbing heads with halos of joy.
This beauty feels fragile: the sharply-colored joy of the trees, the sun-ecstatic grass beneath my daughter's running feet.
"We are lucky to live in Utah," Georg reminds me, smiling. He is smiling because his promotion is on the way, and it is a bad time to move.
"It's like heaven this time of year," I admit, somehow feeling that if I speak softly enough, the beauty will continue its coherent clinging to the canyons and creeks. But immediately I add, "Is it worth the winter? Worth everything else?" That everything else means our uncomfortable proximity to my extended family. It means the "Utah culture" (the obscene niceness of Latter-day Saints, the moral pressure to conform).
Sophie is running ahead, laughing, and Georg tries to keep up with her, tries to move branches before she runs into them as the trail narrows.
I should say that my extended family consists of very good people, whom I love. They are also part of the moral pressure, whether they intend to be or not. They are why I crave small rooms of modest mediocrity. They are why I sometimes think: couldn't I be an inspirational blogger? Couldn't I earn a safe PhD, in something like clinical psychology? Couldn't I have four more children (at least), dedicating myself to their "righteous upbringing?" A smaller life means goals of more manageable proportions, means the safety of mediocre living and the smooth hem of a finely tailored family life. The desire to please. To be good. To fit in with the mild smiles and finely-parted hair.
I could bend my knees before this god of small proportions, the one who sits prettily in the tidy dogmas of religion. But where would I hide the wild God of the thousand-sunned canyon? What do I do with the dreadful glance of Her unseemly love, pouring love like rain through stale morning streets, cascading Himself into the most polluted of human containers? Can I tuck away this God who lights fall on fire and then bursts beneath Her blankets of snow when the sharp trills of spring split open His sleep? What God of untidy proportions, what God of wild love!
The air contracts with cold; the light through leaves is goldening in the maturing light. Sophie rushes the creek, Georg clamping his hand over her tiny fist.
Am I brave enough to be a child of this wilder God? When I want so desperately to retain these most fragile of family strings?
Ah, a metaphor for beauty, I think.
In beauty, the universe is revealed to be held anxiously by the most breakable of strings. One sharp breath and joy crumbles into chaos, a single misplaced brushstroke shatters a masterpiece, and a wrinkle ruins the illusion of a woman's perfect beauty.
Sometimes love feels like that: one sharp breath and-
Georg walks towards me, holding a babbling Sophie.
To know that I am safe with them, that these are much less breakable strings- how wonderful that with them I can breathe.