Tag Archives: duty

The Daily Exercise…


I saw a daughter walking with her mother. Their haircuts were the same, though one was white and one was black. The face under the white hair was confused, lost in trying to find the significance of their actions here on the street in the sunny afternoon. Her daughter pulled her on, the tension visible in her face and the tautness of their two arms meeting over the “v” of space between them.

I recognized the face of the daughter, it was the one I make when my options are out and toddlers must tag along and their short legs become, somehow, a personal insult. I recognized duty born of love, duty that beats desire every day of the week. I recognized the conflict in the daughter’s face between impatience and requirement. There was no space for selfishness in this walk.

I saw how easy it would be to be impatient with someone who doesn’t understand, can’t understand. I saw how much effort it must take to keep latch over her tongue to prevent herself from voicing an unreasonable frustration to an unreasonable mind.

It was a sad picture. And it was a beautiful picture.

I thought about the long space of time before the daughter’s memories had ever begun, when she had been the one pulled against resistance, not understanding why they had to leave her pretty game, not comprehending the patience with which her mother led her.

And now it was the daughter’s turn to spend love on a mind that wouldn’t remember. It was the daughter’s turn to be unable and sometimes unwilling to explain again why it is important to keep the old legs moving, the aged heart pumping. The same street where mother learned was now daughter’s space to trust in the importance of this relationship.

There’s a reason. And when she can’t immediately remember it she trusts. It’s there, she found it once and when she has the chance, later, in quiet, in silence, she knows she’ll remember the reason she does all this again.

I wondered if my daughter would ever have to do this for me. I thought I should write about it here and now in case the moment comes and my mind is too lost to discuss it with her.

It’s a sad picture. And it’s a beautiful picture.

Up the Mountain…


We woke up yesterday morning under a fog. The San Francisco June had settled down with misty determination. I gleefully took it as a sign to curl up in my coffee cup and tap, tap, tap away on my keyboard all day. I was sure the same conclusion had been reached by everyone until my husband said:

“Get your shoes on. We’re going for a hike.”

I was doubtful. Our language is sometimes inadequate on these points. For example, I say the same thing when I’m running to the store a block away.

And so James drove us the half hour to Mount Tamalpais. It was chill and we were dressed to our wrists and ankles. But we drove through the fog out of duty. It was June and it was Saturday and we were going on a hike.

Then, somewhere halfway up the mountain the car broke through, just like that. The sun was shining; the glass of the windows became warm to the touch. It was glorious. We got sunburned.

When we got to the top we found ourselves on one of the tiny green hills poking out of an ocean of cotton batting. And I recognized the truth that the sun had always been shining brightly. I had just been under a fog. And duty had brought me out.

In ten years of marriage I am just learning how to utilize the duty of love to carry me through to the next frenzied glory of trembling affection. In my Christian life I’ve been practicing it longer. And, so far, I’ve proven that the sun is always shining and it always comes back.

I was contemplating these things in church this morning, Pentecost Sunday. The apostles had seen Jesus risen and witnessed his ascension. They had witnessed the miracles. They may have already been prepared to go out into all the world as he had instructed them to do. But they had the dim duty to wait sequestered in a room as instructed until …

Until what? Until when? How glorious it must’ve been, all in a moment, to be touched by the heat of the fire yet not consumed!

It occurs to me that covenant vows are rarely made to cover the known. They are made to cover the unknown. That’s why you make them, because there is so much unknown.

No one knows what marriage will bring to them when they vow. When the baby boy this morning tilted his head back so a rivulet of baptismal water ran down his face into the hollow around his eye he had yet no idea what paces his Christian walk would go through. I didn’t know there would be sun on the mountain. If I had I would’ve brought sunblock.

Thank goodness for duty.