the briar grove

For my sister, with love, on her birthday.

Christmas Day is projected to be unseasonably warm, and while snowflakes drifting from the night sky might be more picturesque, I believe the temperate weather is a blessing. You see, I’m in the midst of moving into a “new” old home, one that is requiring immediate and significant repairs.

Warm December days are not unusual in our region of the country. Actually, one of my favorite holiday memories is associated with such a day.  One year, following the family’s holiday feast, my sister and I decided to go for a walk. Accompanying us was her faithful black Labrador, Taja.  Normally, our little excursion would have entailed a stroll down our farm’s lane, but that day, due to the mild temperature, we decided to set out on a hiking trail that followed the adjacent lake’s shoreline.  We were pleased with our decision, delighting in the deep green moss and shimmering blue water that dotted our path. Much later, becoming aware of the late hour, we chose to leave the designated trail and seek what we assumed would be a short cut to our farm’s adjoining property. Only after weaving aimlessly through an unfamiliar thicket did we realize our supposition had been incorrect. Had it not been for Taja’s keen canine instincts, we may have never arrived at the opening leading to our pastureland. However, our initial relief swiftly dissolved into dismay, as we viewed the thick, dense briar grove that separated us from our final destination.

While the ever agile Taja moved easily through the prickly undergrowth, my sister and I became ensnared again and again by the brambles and thorns that clutched at our clothing. Nevertheless, we inched our way forward, freeing each other from the vines that entangled us, until at last we stepped into an open field.

My sister and I will not be together this Christmas Day, but I'm thinking of her as I exit yet another “briar grove”. In this instance, the terrain I am leaving is comprised of asphalt and brick instead of barbed vines. This “Briargrove” is the street on which I’ve lived for over thirteen years. When I came upon it during my life journey, I was deeply conflicted. While it and its associated trappings offered a more secure life for myself and others, it also demanded I leave much of what I deeply loved.  And unbeknownst to most, at the time, was my personal connection to the grove’s eastern boundary, a place that had claimed the life of a family friend, its thorny landscape playing background to his suicide. Yet, even then, I took up residence within the grove. Only later, through a grace shaped by relationship, instinct, and love, did I begin to free myself from much of what ensnared me.

I always believed I would leave the briar grove, but my departure has taken an unexpected turn, far from the ending I supposed. Interestingly, the same might be said for my sister. As this holiday commences, both she and I are crafting new homes, each within walking distance of bodies of water—mine near a river, hers, a gulf bay. Together, yet apart, we will once again view glistening waters on a warm holiday.

It’s Christmas-- and as I stand among towering unpacked boxes and patched walls, I find myself wondering what lies ahead, as my sister and I embark upon new paths—hers set against the sea, mine, an ivy-covered cottage. Hmm . . , I suppose I don’t really need to know, but instead be grateful for fellow travelers, flowing waters, and a precious sister that has accompanied me thus far. Perhaps, in continuing communion with them, I will complete my journey home.

1 comment:

  1. How beautifully written! I am about to go to the cemetery to put a few flowers out at the graveside of the family members that were so dear to me. It is such a beautiful day just like the one when we went on the venture. The heart is an amazing organ because it allows you to keep the love of those that have died and continue to have love for those we are blessed with now and will be blessed with loving in the future. We can hold on to love of family, spouses, friends, children, and others. God has blessed me with an amazing sister and I thank her for this story of just one of our beautiful memories. May God bless us with many more.