The Forest for the Trees

We were pressed for time. Again. While my son finished dressing and filling his backpack, I put a plate of fried eggs and toast on the table. Orange juice next to it. I paced a little.

I hate running late.

He swallowed down breakfast and gulped the juice, grabbed his things, asked for the car keys, and off we went on the usual morning dash to school.

My stomach was in a knot, hoping the lights would be in our favor, that we wouldn’t be stuck behind a slow moving truck, that maybe, just maybe, we’d make it on time.

He was quiet. I was quiet. It was another night of studying until 2am, and five hours of sleep isn’t enough. Not for him. My mind was already ticking through every task on my daily plate, also on five hours of sleep. But for me, that’s sufficient. I know my body’s rhythms; my capacity to reason and communicate would remain crisp, even if my limbs were weary.

Yes, I thought. I’ll be okay today. But what about my son?

He had protested this morning about going to school. His homework was done, but he was exhausted. He can’t see the forest for the trees right now. He’s in the thick of it – this hectic, pressurized, difficult place. Goals aren’t forgotten, but they fade from view when you can’t seem to find your way out.

“Can’t I stay home?” he asked.

I hesitated.

For a number of reasons, I wanted to say yes. I wanted him to crawl back into bed, to sleep, and then spend the afternoon in other, calmer activities. But that isn’t where we are. I had to stand firm.

“No,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

As we were riding to school, traffic was uneventful and delays were few until we were about a mile from the building. We hit a long red light in the heart of a heavily wooded neighborhood. I turned and stared out the window. This is a street I’ve traveled hundreds of times in the past years. On both sides of us was a mass of towering pines, oaks, and elms, a thicket of brambles and weed, downed limbs with their decaying arms and branches of browning leaves.

The forest, I thought. Beautiful.

But it is also a treacherous place where you lose your bearings. It’s so easy to trip, to fall. To wander in circles.

Then I saw it, just as the red light turned to green and we were moving again. A speck of lavender, some sort of wild flower blooming in the tangle of trees.

Perhaps I imagined it because I needed to see it. Perhaps it was real, with more beyond my view.

© D A Wolf