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Saving Space

“Flood drill” someone yelled as 20 middle schoolers stood on their classroom chairs pulling up their pant legs; mocking a worried-looking substitute science teacher. Mrs. Meltzer was trying to teach us about surface tension and displacement.


In class we had taken beakers, filled them to the rim with water and dropped plums in them to measure the overflow. One of the students had the brilliant idea, we thought, to call the experiment a flood drill. Hysteria ensued.

I had my own personal “flood drill” recently. I had a moment of divine recognition. It was unexplainable and huge as if a meteor had crashed from the heavens into my heart leaving and enormous space filled with light and love.

Up until that point I had always been a person who filled their cup to the very top. Staying busy, making appointments, running around town. I was very careful not to be too messy but every once in a while my cup would overflow. Dripping over the sides, leaving a ring on a table or two. And this would cause me anxiety about being able to put the spill back in the glass.

This time the displacement was so enormous that I noticed the wonder of the space in a new way. And, as a result I am trying not to fill it up.

I realized it was a habit to keep finding the point of surface tension. Always living on the edge and that instead of filling my cup up, it is better to contemplate the room between the water and the ledge.

As I sit on the shore and stare out on to the expanse before me I can now see the light shimmer on the Hudson and how industrious squirrels hunt for scraps in the park. That expanse holds trees that lose their leaves and the scaffolding on the building next door as it wobbles in the high November wind.

There is now room in my vessel for writing, reading poetry and studying scripture. Less need to be on top of the news.

For sure, I am still cleaning up the debris left from my displacement but I am no longer doing so in a rush to put the residue back in my cup.

I am finding it better half empty than completely full.

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