The sunshine, coming from farther away now, is nevertheless clear and bright. There are geraniums still blooming in the big clay pots on the corners of the dock, and there is just a hint of a breeze to ruffle the water. The long weekend, the weekend in which the Escape and I have heralded the Christmas season by drawing a circle encompassing nearly all of southeast Georgia, is winding down.
My mind wanders. I remember where I've been and what I've been doing over the last four days. It's Friday night and I'm in Dublin, smiling as Jackson extends his hand to shake that of Santa. It's Saturday and I'm in Nahunta, reeling off packing tape to attach plastic poinsettias to an ATV for the Christmas parade. It's Sunday and I'm at Lake Blackshear, being fed stories and attention and homemade chicken pot pie. It's Monday and I'm still here.
My shadow is clear and distinct on the flat boards of the dock, but where it falls off into the water, it becomes cloudy and dim, barely visible, as though my head has elected to disassociate itself from the rest of me, as though it has seceded from the imperfect union of the corporeal and the cerebral. I have only to back up a few steps to reestablish the single self, but the feeling of disintegration stays with me.
I have left pieces of myself, like lint from a fuzzy sweater or sand from the bottom of a pair of flip-flops, all along the way. A part of me stayed in Dublin in the blue-eyed gaze of a 5-year-old. A fragment got caught in the crumpled candy wrappers left behind on the parade route. A shard, a scrap, a sliver will remain here when, in just a few minutes, I pack up and head home.
The highway weaves in and out of towns, crosses roads, passes fields. It is a familiar route. My mind wanders. I find myself thinking of Ebenezer Scrooge. It is Christmas, after all, but it takes a while to realize why the villainous, stingy, self-centered Scrooge has made a cameo appearance in my reverie. I see him, accompanied by the various Ghosts of Christmas, moving between present and past, past and future, and I remember something I've heard, a theory about time, a theory that posits that everything that has ever happened or will ever happen is happening right now.
The quantum physicists of the world probably lay claim to that theory, but it occurs to me that Ebenezer Scrooge may have proven it for them. May have proven that past, present and future all exist right now, in this moment. May have demonstrated with the power of story that we are never separated from what we have experienced or what we are yet to know. May have given us an explanation for why the past, experienced as memory, and the future, experienced as hope, are as real as what is seen and heard, tasted and touched and smelled. May have offered me a reconciliation of that imperfect union of head and heart, body and soul.
The parts of myself that I thought I'd left behind, I am beginning to see, are both there and here. The parts of myself that I have yet to acquire, I am beginning to sense, are already with me. And the proclamation of "Emmanuel!" imprinted on cards and hung on banners and sung in hymns, means not just that God is with us but that he always has been and always will be.
I set out on Friday not yet ready. Two weeks into Advent, I was not the least prepared, but I was waiting - waiting for that moment of numinous beauty and improbable grace that would make it Christmas.
I found it, somewhere on the highway between Vienna and Hawkinsville, in the face of Ebenezer Scrooge.