more than the heart can hold

It’s 5:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep any longer.

I am not worried.  I am not sad.

I’m just too happy.

I have nothing in particular to feel so glad about.  Not any luckier today that most days.  Yesterday Eldest and I biked six miles at 6 a.m. to sort produce for the co-op.  The roads were almost quiet.  The air as fresh as you would expect dawn to be.  It was cold enough at first I was glad to have my gloves.

We arrived in good time, Eldest coasting in right after me.  Having shed gloves and my long sleeves, I was already almost warm.  And it was not yet 6:30.

The brains (and will) behind the co-op met us at her front door.  “Oh, good for you, coming on bike all this way.”

As the sun rose, the room of fresh vegetables — piled up everywhere in boxes and crates — filled up with light.  Light gleamed off the thick rounded rinds of watermelon. Picked out the ruffled folds of salad greens.  We breathed in ripe peaches and tomato vines, basil, dill and tarragon.

The plastic bins for each household began to glow as the light poured in the windows, as the fruits and vegetables piled up inside each bin waiting to go out and feed its one of forty or more families.

By midmorning we were already done.

Eldest and I said our good-byes to the other volunteers and the co-op director, standing in the doorway talking Christmas memories, recipes and cousin’s weddings.

On our way out we met the strawberries we’d been waiting for coming up the walk in a stack of flats — bright and gleaming red in their greeny-blue cardboard pints — borne in on the flannel-plaid shoulder of the young woman in braided pigtails who grew them.  The Great Northwest personified.

The sun was already hot and bright as we pedaled away.

We climbed the hill back into town just in time to see a gray-haired lady sitting at the bus stop outside the pharmacy, beneath a silken embroidered parasol with her ankles crossed.  She gazed out the bus shelter’s windows as at a southern seashore.

I want to take a picture of this perfection, but the bus approaches faster than our bikes.  She is already on her feet.  “Well, you’ll have to be quick about it.  I’ve gotta get on this bus.”  Her voice is gruff and grudging.

But she holds the parasol out for me to get a picture of its delicate embroidery.

Then pushes her way on board.

We rode home past August fields newly mown, end-of-season vegetable gardens and homey-looking lines of drying laundry.

It was not yet noon.

There was work to be done after that. But in the evening — Eldest off earning her way for her fast-approaching return to college,  Fritz on the phone to India talking code and tolerances and looming deadlines — Middlest and Young and I piled up on my big bed to watch a movie Middlest has been wanting to see.  The Adjustment Bureau.

“It’s supposed to be extravagantly silly and charming with a dopey ending that asks deep questions about life and has strong chemistry between the romantic leads and a whimsical sci-fi twist.”  We agreed this sounded just like our kind of flick.

We were not disappointed.  The plot rushes forward, then twists.  The dialog sparkles.

We settle in against big red pillows intended just for this purpose, blue flower-petal bowls of chocolate ice cream tucked up beneath our chins.  Spumoni, Peanut Butter Moose Tracks,  Ben and Jerry’s S’mores. We compare and contrast flavors.   We laugh.  Emily Blunt is lovely and tough.  Matt Damon is stubborn and charming.  Anthony Mackie is brilliantly weary and intense in the very same moment.

We moan at impending disaster.  We fast-forward through the steamy bit.  We cheer the heroes.  We give them all sorts of good advice.  Which they, satisfyingly, rarely follow.

“What a well-plotted plot,” I say covetously.

“Look at that amazing shot,” Middlest concurs.

“This is definitely my top ten,” says Young.  “It’s up there with Inception.”

YoungSon’s Top 10 Movies of All Time hoosiers

  1. Hoosiers
  2. Remember the Titans
  3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  4. How to Train Your Dragon
  5. Blind Side
  6. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
  7. Inception
  8. Apollo 13
  9. The Adjustment Bureau
  10. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

“Definitely my top ten” says Middlest.

“Oh, mine, too,” says I.

So when the movie was over, we each had to make our own personal lists of Top 10.  We debate how some movies are completely enjoyable entertainments — like Avatar or Breakfast at Tiffany’s —

Top 30 Entertainments 

  1. Princess Bride
  2. Bride and Prejudice
  3. Roman Holiday
  4. Little Women
  5. Henry V
  6. Much Ado about Nothing
  7. Sense and Sensibility
  8. You’ve Got Mail
  9. His Girl Friday
  10. Cinderella (Rodgers &  Hammerstein, with Brandee)
  11. Ramona and Beezus
  12. National Treasure
  13. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  14. Sabrina (both Audrey Hepburn & Julia Ormond)
  15. First Knight
  16. Despicable Me
  17. Napoleon Dynamite
  18. The Incredibles
  19. Narnia
  20. Meet the Robinsons
  21. Avatar
  22. Fantastic Four
  23. Star Wars (original  3)
  24. Phantom of the Opera
  25. Room with a View
  26. Howard’s End
  27. Persuasion
  28. Notting Hill
  29. The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill . . . and Came Down a Mountain
  30. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Straight from the Heart)

“How about The Story of the Weeping Camel?” I ask.

I didn’t like that one,” says Middlest.

“Didn’t you? Maybe you have to be the parent to get that one.”


But other movies  – the ones that make our personal Top 10 . . .

“They’re more true.”

“I know.  It’s like you recognize them somehow even when they’re unbelievable.”

“Like they echo in that cave inside you. You know?”

Middlest’s Top 10 Movies of All TimeWit

  1. Inception
  2. The Adjustment Bureau
  3. Pride and Prejudice (with Keira Knightley)
  4. Wit
  5. The Princess and the Frog
  6. The Young Victoria
  7. Apollo 13
  8. My Fair Lady
  9. Lagaan
  10. Dear Frankie

We debate which films can be included?  “Only real movies.  That came out in theaters.”  Which disqualifies Wives and Daughters for me and Gilligan’s Island reruns for Young.

“Can I count the Julia parts of Julie and Julia?” I ask.

“No,” says Middlest.  “All or nothing.”

Emma J’s Top 10 Movies of All Time

  1. The Adjustment Bureau
  2. The Young Victoria
  3. The Fugitive
  4. Dear Frankie
  5. Elephant Man
  6. Amazing Grace
  7. It Happened One Night
  8. Kandukondain Kandukondain (I Have Found It)
  9. Fiddler on the Roof
  10. Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire)

“Those are all good ones,”  we said, looking at each other’s lists.

“Good one,” says Middlest with Steve Martin’s psuedo-French Pink Panther accent.  It is already late and everything makes us laugh.

So maybe it’s the after-buzz of a good movie I’m feeling this morning.

This sense that there’s more joy in this world than my heart can hold.

Maybe it’s the chocolate ice cream.

Or maybe it’s true.

Because this is a day the happiness lasts all day.

Modulating a little bittersweetly later on as I watch Middlest getting ready to leave — just for the evening.   She’ll be back before 10.  We have so much time still.

My heart overflowing only just a little bit when, after she leaves, I find a bird fighting the wrong side of the kitchen window, scrabbling at the glass, trying to get free.

I catch it in my hands and YoungSon comes to see.

And then I let it go.

It flutters, is gone.

The kitchen and the garden outside the open window are just as quiet as you’d expect an early summer evening to be.


2 thoughts on “more than the heart can hold

  1. What a wonderful day, and wonderful post, too. The improbable poetry of that trapped bird! And the splendid surprise of those movie lists! And all those gleaming glowing vegetables and fruits. Heavenly and earthly.

  2. Beautiful. All that happiness has brought a lump to my throat…I just don’t want to have to release the bird, I suppose. You write emotions, scenes, truths so perfectly, Emma J. Wishing you many more perfectly happy days!

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