Post #43: The Pulse of Souls

IMG_2105Long ago

The streets and sidewalks were still damp and puddly from the nighttime rain. I edge out of the house and gingerly step down the drive. The street is shiny and wet.    I don’t look around. I look down. The milky, early morning sun is warm. It’s going to be hot. I have plenty of time to get to school. It doesn’t matter. I am going to be late.

I’m going to save them all.

And I try. Over and over I bend over to scoop their slithery, writhing little selves off the quickly drying pavement and onto the cool grass so they can burrow back into the earth. I can’t make heads or tails of them!  But I don’t feel triumphant as they slide off my fingers into safety. I fuss and I worry. Am I putting them back in the right place so they can find their families?

***

Last Week

Anxious, overwhelmed, fussed, I am way in the back, slumped in a seat, shrinking away from the crowd that surrounds me.   They are all looking up. I should be looking up. I should be but I just can’t. Instead I look down. A tiny speck.  A solitary ant, boldly and stealthily making his way across the floor. The brave advance guard! All alone.

Like the self-important Florence Nightingale of the insect world, I turn to rummage for a scrap of paper intent on scooping the tiny thing up and winging him to safety and freedom out into the sunlight.

But when I turn he’s been crushed. As am I.

***

In Between

There is a lot of in between here. I wonder, moving so fast for so long, what other small marvels have I arrogantly and short-sightedly overlooked? How much have I missed?

 

***

Last Night

I flit by here all the time. A quick glance out the car window, a heartbeat’s worth of appreciation, and my eyes are back firmly on the road, I’m zooming on my way. But tonight is different. Tonight I stop. Slowly I make my way down to the pond. And I sit.

I tap my foot nervously. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go! I jitter and sneak glances at my watch.  What am I waiting for exactly? To be instantly embraced by the rhythms of nature? To have all secrets revealed?

The pond, surrounded by delicate trees and brushed by soft flowers, is down a gentle slope next to the library. It’s bordered by roads and as I sit I’m enveloped not by the spark of nature but buffeted by the whoosh of the engines as cars careen wildly around the corners. I can’t think.

If the steely-eyed drivers bother to glance out their windows as they roar past, they will see me sitting there. A tiny speck. Alone. I shift uncomfortably.

I won’t stay. Instead I make my way back up the path and to the library. The great indoors: my own Elysium. I enter and I am at once embraced by a cloud of quiet.

It’s here that I feel safe. Blanketed by thought, soothed by words, I find the peace that I’m longing for. It’s here that I can, for a few moments at least, just allow thought to wash over me like a salve.  Here, if I listen very closely, I can even feel the pulse of souls, both large and small.

And it is here, finally, that by myself I chide myself gently for what I have for so long forgotten to notice. And it’s here that I can too remind myself that there is always so much to see if I make the effort

to look up

and around

and always down.

 

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“Your One Wild and Precious Life”

FullSizeRender (3)It was really no big deal. Except it was. One heavy, sluggish afternoon I was at home. Alone in the empty kitchen. Alone in the house. Alone. Like an aproned conductor poised on the podium I really knew this melody to my very soul, I’ve played it so many times before. I pulled ingredients from the cupboards, pots and pans from the shelves. Oh please! I could do this with my eyes closed. But I didn’t. When I was finished things were different. There was a plate full of cookies. But not the usual blondie squares. Not the standard oatmeal chocolate chip. Not the ubiquitous rice crispie treats.   I had made poppy seed cookies. No one’s favorite. Except mine.

.***

Before I was born my Great-grandmother Rachel Leah made taiglach, hot honeyed pastry mounded into tiny hills, my mother’s memory so powerful that decades later even I could taste the sweetness on my tongue.

***

With the pride and bearing of a queen, my Grandma “Anne with an e” presided over her kingdom. Her edible coffers emptied upon the white tablecloth and spread before us with the glory of a cornucopia, should a cornucopia be filled with platters of sliced meats and bowls of whipped potatoes. At the end we were awarded tins crammed full of Mandelbrot. Chocolate chip for us. Walnut for her boy, my Dad.

***

“It’s nothing,” my little Gram demurred, “it’s not even baking really!” but still she would casually toss ingredients up into to a bowl. Then with the coiled strength of a Billie Jean King backhand she would use her whisk to serve up perfect Lemon Meringue pies. Love all.

***

Every Sunday morning The Egg Master reverently unwrapped his iron skillet. Do you want your eggs scrambled or boiled, stuffed or shirred? Guaranteed delicious, guaranteed perfectly done, guaranteed done exactly the way he wants them for you.

Later he would pile everyone into the car for a long ride for big scoops of ice cream. We could never finish. And no matter the flavor, be it Bubble Gum or Butter Crunch or Blue Moon, The Egg Master would manfully lick down the excess, no complaints.

***

Tureens of soup from my mother, thick with vegetables and anchored with chunks of flanken bobbing like buoys in a thick pea green ocean. Endless bowls from a never-ending tureen of serve yourself. Full of warmth.

***

My husband is stretched like a long pull of salt-water taffy, all six feet of him. When we walk together he holds my hand and I am practically horizontal as I’m pulled along. Like Miss Clavel rushing to Madeleine, I run fast faster fastest to keep up, my legs in a whirl.

But when I walk by myself I can move more slowly, keep my feet right on the ground. Then there is time then to see. Then there is time to think. So I do.

As I walk, Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day” floats into my mind. That last imploring line sticks fast: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I barely take a breath before I blurt out “anything I want!”

Then I realize that is precisely what I’m doing. That’s just what all the others did. Caring for those they love most. I hope too, like me, they learned to sometimes make their own kind of poppy seed cookies and care for themselves as well. Because the combination, mixed up all  together, is simply sublime.