complimentary colors and emancipation

by rebecca on March 29, 2011

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We arrived at the campus together. She was to take a class at 9:45 as a way to introduce her to college life. Half an hour to kill. I think she’d rather have sat still, but feet walking rather than nerves churning seemed a wiser occupation.

We found some lovely trees and she humored me with a photo op. We walked some more. She checked the time. I pointed out some posters of clubs and professors promoting classes. She checked the time again. 2 minutes had ticked by. We chatted about front row or back row for sitting. After several more glimpses at the time finally it was clear she could safely enter the classroom. She leaned in and kissed me goodbye.

I kept my eyes bright to smile at her and wished her well. But I felt another of the waves that have been coming on during this, her senior year. My daughter is going to leave my home.

I cry easily. I have no hesitation about public crying. But in front of my daughter? Not so much. I am her ambassador here on this our first campus visit to Lewis and Clark. This is her spot, her impression to make. I didn’t want to be the conspicuous crying lady and blow it for her.

There is no doubt I’m thrilled for her. She’s ready. But who will ask to have her back rubbed just as I’m beginning to nod off at night?  I’ve made a peanut butter sandwich for that girl since first grade, then offered the dirty knife to the dog to lick. How will I find the rhythm in my life when she is gone?

I walked in my stupor of sadness for a while, while the rain outside poured down. Our time together is growing shorter. Foot after foot does eventually provide a rhythm, however, and I found industry behind the lens of my camera.

Fingers of moss reach skyward. Stones are carpeted. The scene is green and gray. Photosynthesis is alive and well in the Pacific Northwest turning toxicity into oxygen. I can breathe. My pores open and my skin calms.

I am a stone girl; a red rock aficionado. I am drawn to the dry of the desert. I regularly climb large red slabs that jut up from the earth.

My daughter has always detested the sun. When she was younger I made her come outside in the Albuquerque heat and she wilted. Heat rashes abounded.

Here in this green landscape I understand her better. She is wet and cool. I listen to her music through these green branches and I bloom. The books she reads like King Arthur turn pages more easily in this landscape.

I came here to let her go. I glimpse the green of this different path she might take away from my red life. She may not choose this particular academic institution. Fine. But this path; this green direction that is different from mine; this is a certainty.

I am red stone. In the desert the red earth knows where it is. Huge arches of it rise up to greet the blue sky. It is fiery, absorbing heat from the sun.

My daughter is green moss. In the forest the wet welcomes the moss and everything is softened by its grace. Even the rocks grow a layer of green skin. It is cool, gentling the air with mist.

I am a mother who raised a child. I listened to playground troubles and spread on sunscreen. I reviewed English papers and learned to text. I put in the other earbud and shared the song from one ipod. Now I’m expected to surrender her to the wide world. I am stretched. I am frightened. And still I am thrilled and in love with all that is opening before this girl I love most.

Red and green live across from each other on the color wheel but they are complimentary colors. Could anything be more soothing to the heat of the desert than the mist of a forest floor? My daughter has brought cooling grace to the stone slab of my life.

Look at the moss on these stairs. It is green growing on stone. A place to climb. I want her to have her life, as large and wonderful as it might be. I’ve provided the stone staircase that she might climb to find a room all her own. I’m anxious to see what layer of green moss she will lay down as she makes her pathway into the future.

We are not the same. I am stone. She is moss. But as she prepares to leave, I find a garden that helps me see how we are planted in one place.

Are there hellos in the profound goodbyes of your life? What complimentary colors do you find in those people who are different from you? Are you more a stone person or a moss person? And what helps you to find the wonderful mist of grace to welcome an altared space?

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey March 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Oh, wow … I’m sitting here almost unable to breathe for the tears. I know this day will be here for me before I know it. Your writing is beautiful, your intense love and beautiful surrender both so vivid in these lines.
I came here to let her go.
Oh, my God … it’s what we all do, every day, isn’t it?


Margaret Reyes Dempsey March 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Oh my God, Rebecca. I’m sitting here practically sobbing. That was absolutely beautiful, and the photos were perfect. Thanks for sharing this. It’s one of your best!


BigLittleWolf March 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Let’s just say – I can relate. I’ve sent one off, the one who is/was always wildly independent. And soon enough, I’ll be sending off the other. The child who was so wounded after divorce. The creative child. The mysterious child. The one I cradled for so long who, as he has matured, has learned to do the same for me.

These words say it all, so beautifully: “Now I’m expected to surrender her to the wide world. I am stretched. I am frightened. And still I am thrilled and in love with all that is opening before this girl I love most.”

Lovely, lovely post.


rebecca March 29, 2011 at 7:07 pm


You live so PRESENT with your children. Yes this day will come, and while there will be some sadness, there will also be huge pride as well. And you will enjoy them.


rebecca March 29, 2011 at 7:09 pm


It means so much for you to say that. Thank you. I will say I love these photos too.


rebecca March 29, 2011 at 7:13 pm


Isn’t it true that it is both, the lovely and the fright? Or the excitement and the sadness? It is so much to feel in such inside one heart.

I feel for you. I can’t imagine sending off my youngest. What will I do with none of these little people in my home?

I’m so glad your son brings you the comfort.


rachel March 30, 2011 at 10:13 am

wow. just wow.

this is intensely beautiful, rebecca. messy and sad and joyful and resilient…i’m left speechless and damp-eyed.

i mean, really. this is a phenomenal ode–to your daughter, to your self, to this great big world that is so often most balanced when we feel most unnerved.

breathtaking. thank you.


rebecca March 30, 2011 at 10:33 am


” this great big world that is so often most balanced when we feel most unnerved.”

this is what I want to remember. Thank you.


SuziCate March 30, 2011 at 11:44 am

My daughter has brought cooling grace to the stone slab of my life. -a most beautiful and profound realization. I love the analogies of red and green and stone and moss…you’ve weved lovely heartfelt essay. She’ll do well with the wings you’ve given her and the roots to come home to. And you, I’ve watched you bloom behind your camera lens and through your words this past year…you’ll be just wonderful, like you are right here, right now. Hugs…


Trish March 31, 2011 at 11:13 am

I found you via Lindsey. What a beautiful post.
I’m not sure if I’m stone or moss…maybe the water that trickles between the two interdependent hemispheres after a shower or a light mist….



rebecca March 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm


Welcome! What a hydrating thing to be water.


Peg March 31, 2011 at 5:38 pm

That was one of the most beautiful things I think I have ever read and I so feel your emotions. My youngest moved out in May (On Mother’s day…the little stinker) and I so felt what you are feeling.


denise April 1, 2011 at 10:10 pm

I just read Lindsey’s post about this post and had to come visit. The metaphor of your and your daughter’s relationship is stunning. I must admit, knowing this day will come smacks the air out of my lungs. Knowing that others are walking the path before me, and are sharing their journey, helps. Thank you for your gorgeous words.


rebecca April 2, 2011 at 6:54 am


I think this day is more difficult to anticipate than it is to live. This is my experience at least. I won’t lie. There is something about her leaving that feels like my baby is being ripped from my bossom. (and I know that sounds so dramatic) But there is something else as well. The pride simply cannot be underestimated. My daughter is ready. We got here in the right time. I’ve been here as she lived her life and watched her struggle and grow and mature. So, this feels like the right time.

So, while it still hurts, it is also the marvelousness of watching an eagle take flight. We live right near where a bald eagle nests. This bird is MASSIVE. I once came round the cornmer in my tiny car to find it feeding on something in the road. It took off right in front of me. I kid you not, the wing span was a wide as my car. Because my window was open I could actually hear those enormous wings displacing air as he flew. It was amazing.

This is the thrill of this moment. Would I love my daughter’s company in my home? Of course. But the thrill of her flight turns me inside out. And it cannot be underestimated.

When she was little I couldn’t imagine how she would be ready and so I would think of our parting and it only felt like sorrow. But now, she is so mature. She is so capable. And so much of that happened only in the last year or two.

Thank you for coming by to visit.


monica April 3, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Beautifully written. I have a big lump in my throat! Your daughter is a tribute to both of your great parenting.


Kate April 3, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Oh my. I love you respect for her, your understanding of who she is. Beauty.


Yvette Francino April 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Oh, this is the first time I’ve seen this with the photos! They’re so beautiful. The words, of course, were moving to start with, but adding the photos really completes this work of beauty.


Linda April 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Ah, the sweet sorrow of having a child leave home! That experience and the tears we shed stick in my mind like it was yesterday. In many ways the separation is still occurring, but that is not a bad thing. I enjoy my freedom just as my daughter does. Hope the same will be true for you.


rebecca April 11, 2011 at 9:07 am


Thank you for calling it “sweet” sorrow. That’s what I want it to be. And this morning was one that will add to the sweet. I think I, too, will enjoy some freedom. I’ve been there as she has grown up. I’m looking forward to being there for myself more in the coming decades.


6512 and growing April 11, 2011 at 11:09 am

Oh Rebecca,
This is so beautiful. So profound.
Many blessings to your daughter as she soaks up the green humidity in her new (gulp) home.


Stacia May 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Giving the dog the peanut-buttery knife to lick? Yes!


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