What’s your patronus, lightning, and other morning thoughts


The chapel at Middlesex School.  I was early to an xc race on Saturday and my habit when I’m early (which is basically always, whether to a sports event or a work thing) is to find the chapel.  I love the light streaming through those high windows.

I’ve been waking up at dawn.  I think of my grandmother, who – to my memory – was always up at the crack.  I feel like I’m both getting old and getting closer to her when I keep waking up at 5.  No matter the day, no matter what time I went to bed.  I’m also tired, for the record.  I’d like to sleep past 6.  But this seems to be my lot right now, and I’m aware that as misfortunes go this is a small one.

On Saturday morning this weekend I went running in the dark at 5:15.  It was wet and damp and warm, and it was my first run in a long time.  I observed in August that my runs lately had been short and difficult, and that trend has continued. As Grace blossoms into running (she is increasingly comfortable with the 5k distance, and happier racing), I seem to be falling into a ditch. Clearly her father already did (fall into a ditch).  Here we are. I thought about that as a ran.  My daughter, who would run her last race as a 13 year old later on Saturday.

I remembered a piece I’d written years ago about Grace and Whit called Lightning in a Jar. I’m not sure why that piece came back to me on Saturday morning, but one thing I’ve learned to heed in my middle age is the thoughts that rise up apparently randomly in my mind.  There’s a reason, I am sure of it; it is as undeniable as it is inchoate.

It’s all so astonishing, so baffling and overwhelming at the same time, and I feel awash, often, in the swarming wonder that is parenting.  My own children, growing tall and lanky in front of my eyes, their childhood passing in one swift swirl of color, the brilliance of their being here flashing intermittently like a firefly in the dark.

And now, Grace and Whit (over five years later!) have surely shattered the jars.  The lightning of their beings flashes around the house, jagged, hot, and dazzlingly beautiful.  I’m still battled and overwhelmed, still awash in the swarming wonder of parenting.

As I ran, bunnies kept dashing across my path.  I thought randomly of Harry Potter and his patronus, a stag.  I wondered what animal my patronus would be.  A memory reared up of climbing Kilimanjaro with Matt, in June 1998 (I wrote about that experience in more detail here). As we neared the summit, I had a very vivid sense of a reindeer running by me.  To this day, Matt and I laugh about it.  Reindeer at 18,000 feet in Africa?  Probably not. But I was so sure.  In that moment, Matt says he was not sure if his new girlfriend was struck suddenly with altitude sickness or joking.  I imagine it was the former, but luckily I got to the top and we made it down in one piece.  I’ve never forgotten that vision of a reindeer, though.

Is that my patronus?  Maybe. Who knows. I had not even discovered Harry Potter at that time. I read the first four books in the week leading up to our wedding and on our honeymoon, actually. Another possibility is a large cat.  I dislike house cats as much as I’m riveted by large ones.  I’m a Leo who was born in the year of the Tiger and when we were on safari it was the cats I was most drawn to.  Maybe my patronus is a lion or a tiger.  I don’t feel fierce, though.

Thinking of lightning, and Harry Potter, and a long-ago dark walk up Kilimanjaro where a reindeer flashed by me, I kept running.  The streets were dark and quiet, damp from last night’s downpour.  I let the thoughts run through my head, and I ran home.

What form would your patronus take? 

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  1. Nadine
    Posted October 24, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I love this sentence: “… one thing I’ve learned to heed in my middle age is the thoughts that rise up apparently randomly in my mind”. I need to learn that.
    The patronus question is fascinating. I love cats, big or small, but I think mine will be a bird. Not sure what kind, and I was never really into birds, but in recent years it has been birds showing up at times and places that made me know things were right: the house we were looking at, the birds outside the small chapel at my grandmother’s funeral.

  2. Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I love this. I think you and I have been at the same place lately – struggling to get through the days, but aware of our great good fortune in many ways, and the luminous moments, too.

    I’ve wondered what my Patronus would be and never come up with a good answer. Will have to ponder further!

    admin Reply:

    Indeed. I’m so grateful to know of such a kindred spirit nearby. I did the Pottermore test and it told me my patronus was a cat which did not feel exactly right.

  3. Debbie
    Posted October 27, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your writing and for this picture of the Middlesex Chapel. I haven’t seen it for a long time but have nice memories of singing and attending concerts there a long time ago.

    admin Reply:

    It’s such a beautiful place.