Beauty is. We are driving back from my daughter’s birthday dinner at the Chop House on the far side of town. The roads are slick with iced dew from falling snow. On the way there, each of us chose a separate route from my house where we had played games and eaten Better Than
Sex Anything cake. Dessert before dinner: Yes! My son had picked the highway across the Rims, my ex-husband had taken the river route and my daughter picked the road with the only overpass in town. And now, she’s taking me back to my house, over the sandstone cliffs, up through the creek valley and along the hills where she had once buried a time capsule she’d not recover for another five years.
Just as we cross the creek bridge, her boyfriend points out this is where he usually sees the deer. We slow down, flash our lights: no deer. We continue on. Beauty is: when something happens at the right time. When we reach the corner with the Ponderosa pine, we slow down again because this is where my daughter usually see the deer. We squint in the dark cab of her truck, peering between the trees. Bedded down under the trees, two does stare back at us. We pause; my daughter grins. We continue on.
Nothing can be done inside this diorama. From the moment of birth, babies move toward independence. And if a mother has done her job well, her child will become a well-adjusted, independent adult. And comes the day her child will return her mother to her own single doorstep with warm hugs and thanks-mom-I-love-you hollers. And this mother will pretend to step inside her darkened house, knowing her daughter will watch to make sure she gets in okay. But then she’ll step back outside, this mother, and listen to her daughter drive away. Headlights bouncing, red tail lights glowing. As it should be, yes.
Beauty is: not being in control at all times. This is something I read in Annie Liebovitz’s latest book, Pilgramage. Some of her favorite shots happened when she let go, she wrote. I have this in my mind—this letting go. And I have in my coat pocket—my camera. And deep in the snow bank beneath my second-story bedroom window rise the withered stalks of my favorite yellow rose bush.
I pick my path through the deep snow, and kneel. Mittens off, macro setting on, I still my breath and focus on the shot. The world as I know it freezes, catches its breath and waits for Mother in a Red Coat to snap her shot. On the far side of the blue spruce pine centered in her tiny yard comes the sound of footsteps. One, two, stop. Three, four, stop. At first she wants to panic, thinking: robber, bad guy, thief. But then she realizes the sound is dainty. Dainty as in deer. And as long as she doesn’t move, the deer will stay to study her—they peer at her through the branches of the blue spruce—this Woman Knelt in Snow.