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We stand expectantly on the shore of a new life

Bright half moon sat on a high shelf just above the embers of the sky, fanned by a slight breeze, casting the faces of the hills in black silhouette.

On our evening walk to the river, the air is apple crisp. Tide is ebbing. Little river is walking to Big River in no particular hurry. The water twitches with the caress of insects dancing in the air. Dogs find new smells along the riverbank.

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The slap of fish to water turns our heads, too slow. We wait in silence - Amy and I - and another fish roils to the surface right in front of us. A third leaps for a fly and slaps against the water like a great whale's breaching.

Silence again, and we are aware of the hidden sounds. The faint toosh, toosh, toosh of fish breaking the river's concentration. The heron and the hunting birds along the shore. We are aware of the flies around our faces and the dying light. The river is alive around us.

Such moments defy words, so we make not a sound until well on our way back to the house. Soon comes the rain, we know, and the memory of autumn sunlight will become a shoreline we cling to until June or July.

By then, you will be here.

It occupies our minds so much that I forget to tell people who have yet to hear the news. That soon, you - my son or daughter - will come into this world. Your arrival is scheduled for February, but I've been told by many that babies keep to their own schedules. Arrive when they will.

You are not yet born - my son or daughter - but already you have changed my life. Last night you kicked in your mother's belly, and I felt your life through my fingertips. Life within life. You have made us aware of such things.

In some ways you have woken us from a slumber, and we are aware of the world around us in new ways. We are aware that our life is about to change forever, that the experiences we take for granted will become fresh and new to another. We are aware that you will see the world as we never could.

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Soon, the two of us - your mother and I - will travel to Astoria, and three of us will return home.

We will shelter you from the winter rains in our little home by the river, but you will get to know their rhythm and voice before you can speak their name. They will have their own names in your mind, before you can form words we can understand.

It may be months before you see a clear sky of blue or a shadow made by the sun's rays. But you will know to appreciate this gentle warmth for the brief time it lasts. You will learn the rhythm of the seasons here. Learn to watch for buds on the alder trees and the daffodils.

You will learn to bask in summer sun that lasts until October.

You will learn to cling to the shoreline of sunny autumn days before setting sail on the ocean of winter gray. You will know this place.

I knew the stream and hillside where I grew up, like my mother's face. I can walk it in my mind now - every footfall - in any season of the year. I knew where to catch the blue-tailed lizards, and when the stream would fill with the music of spring melt. I could spot the graydiggers out of the corner of my eye and could walk the trail back to my house on a moonless night. I knew where to find the horses in summer and could smell a lightning sky.

I want you to know this place. I want you to know its secret names.

I want you to see the gulls on the fields and know a storm is coming. I want you to be able to smell the salt in the river and know what it means. I want you to run outside on that day when all the maple trees lose their seeds and stand in a shower of spinning regeneration.

I want you to understand the beauty of the rain. To take pride in it. The rain here feeds everything, including the spirit. It makes all the more magnificent the gentle grace of the sun.

As your father, I can give you only so much ... and of that, you will take and leave what you will. I hope to give you words, curiosity, and an awareness of this place.

Your mother and I cling a bit to these quiet hours, to the shoreline of our old life. We contemplate the ocean of experience we are about to cross. It is a new thing, and we are unsure of the waters ahead.

I think about the father I must be, the education I must provide, the man or woman I hope you will become.

Yet most times we smile when we look at each other in wonder and disbelief. We await a person who has never seen the half moon on its high shelf, never seen a fish jump, never seen a ray of sunlight break through a silver cloud.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society