Post #103: The Riot of Roots

IMG_2690The air is so heavy, so moist I almost feel as if I could grab great fistfuls of it all, smash it together,  and fling them as summer snowballs.

It has been raining, incessantly it seems, but today, miraculously it is not. In truth, I don’t want to go outside but the fact that it’s actually dry is more than little guilt inducing. So I sidle onto the front porch, tentatively blinking into the sunlight like a mole who has just emerged from her subterranean warren.  The heat around me bears down like a heavy woolen blanket and I am absorbing the feeling of flame, my skin almost crackling, sweat beginning to drip like pan juices.

From high up on the porch I can look down on the cars below, their metallic shells gleaming in the harsh sunlight like the brilliantly colored backs of the jewel beetles, suburban scarabs.

The walkway curves in front of me, but I’m dragging, I’m dawdling.  Oh  go, just go for a bit!  And so I do, sluggishly shucking off my lethargy and dipping into the afternoon.

My feet slap awkwardly at the pavement a bass thrum counterpoint to the soft muted blue of the sky.  The grass is uncombed and unruly, having grown bold and swaggering after weeks of rain.  Weeds sprout with insolent abandon, bullying the surrounding flowers. There is no one on the streets, save myself, and even the cars scoot by furtively as if ashamed to be out in this heat.

And yet, the houses look cool, calm, collected. These are proud little city houses, each perched on  tiny intricately formed postage stamp plots, buildings that sprout in proper formation like the petals of a bachelor’s button, their stubby front yards bearded with hedges trimmed so tight and so crisp that I swear you could bounce a quarter off the tops.

The trees that anchor the sidewalks appear isolated,  standoffishly separate. But I know that’s not true. I know they are all linked by an unseen riot of roots reaching deep to the center of the earth, stretching always towards each other, clinging to the soil.

I think about this for a moment because it’s that linkage that I am yearning for this afternoon,  that linkage that I crave.

***

We stumble through our days, all of us so busily patterned, the lines of our anxious movements separately mapped like the intricate tunnels of an ant farm.  The lonely paths seem so separate,  a crisscross such a bitter rarity.

For all of you who are so very far away, I wonder what your days are like, do we sometimes wake at the very same instant, choose the exact same sandwich for lunch, laugh at the same absurd joke, dream the same dreams?

I wonder.

Forget cell phones and texts dinging at us all for just a moment or two.  I love that too, it’s fun and a bit titilating and you bet I love it as much as everyone else does. 

But there is something even better.

Once, a very long time ago, someone I loved very much was very far away.  We made a plan.  Separated by miles and oceans and time zones nonetheless we would think of each other at the very same moment.  Eyes tightly shut, hearts reaching out, a connection that crackled.   It happened, it can happen again and again.

Because of course, below the surface, roots run deep, steadying the trees to grow strong and upright,  but always as well reaching out towards each other, for each other.  Deeply connected. Beyond time and place.

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Post #101: Three Walks

IMG_2564That’s that! I’ve had enough. And without another thought, without a look back I am on my way, shoelaces trailing, hair streaming,  papers flying.   Loose ends follow me all the way to the door, cajoling, wheedling, yanking me back.  But I pull past and with a sharp snap the door shuts behind me.

So simple! Move from one place to another. One foot in front of the other. Repeat and repeat and repeat.  It is the most practical thing in the world. But today I don’t feel in the least bit practical.

A Noticing Walk

I am moving, my feet going and going on the sidewalk,  a conveyer belt to the whole neighborhood.   

To my left, tough gnarled old trees are crammed into plots barely bigger than a breadbox, squeezed into their spaces like a fat lady’s foot in a too tight shoe.  The trunks writhe and twist, their branches reaching up to the sky to sway to some etherial sound, undulating to unheard music, perhaps a concert played by God Himself.

My stride lengthens. 

To my right, the houses are tucked in tight, neat and tidy, like a riffled shuffled deck of cards. A hedgerow stands shoulder to shoulder, in tight verdant formation. A few steps on a fence tightly buckles in a yard, unable to contain the voluminous hydrangeas spilling over the buckle of the gate.  Just beyond, spied through a tangle of branches, a tiny hidden playhouse, complete with miniature yellow Adirondack chairs,  a perfect replica of the big house just beyond.

An untrimmed hedge, tendrils shyly reaching out as if for comfort.  Gaudy necklaces of flowers ring the gardens. A few pugnacious weeds elbow their way through the cracks in the pavement.

Then a break through the hedge and I am at the shore.  The world seems somehow wider, so expansive that my vision cannot take it all in.  In front of me is a carpet of water, the sky layered above, clouds littered carelessly on top.  Gradations of Rothko blue.

A gust and the clouds gambol through the sky.   I am once again on my feet. With the whoosh of wind,  I am remembering.

A Drifting Walk

The whoosh of wind. I remember my youngest sister, slight and small, was so delicate and light that my Dad would joke, we all would joke, “that she could blow away in a big gust of wind.”

We laughed but I always worried.  I could see her carried off her feet, snatched by the wind,  her fine straight pixie cut blown back. her hands reaching out imploringly, her eyes dark and frightened.  I would save her, I would save her for sure, by grabbing her by her red sneakered foot and pulling her back, bringing her back down to earth.

Back on solid ground, my middle sister and I, both of us bigger, stronger, watchful, would then take her hands and walk together.  We would find the ice cream truck. I held the dimes for the Eskimo Pies. Sitting on the front stoop, each of us would be in a race against the sun to eat before the vanilla would melt into rivulets, the chocolate sheaths slipping to the pavement.  After a few tentative bites, the littlest sister would ask for help to finish hers.  And we helped her.

As I walk on,  the air becomes dense, almost damp as the clouds above darken and hover.

An Imaginary Walk

Through the window, I can see clouds are gathering, dark and threatening. There’s not much time. I change my shoes and slip out of the office, climb up the dim stairwell. Shove open the doorway to the roof.

I am all alone up here.

The air has a heavy, muscular quality and I can almost see the delicate scribbles of the wind, the advance guard of the coming storm. There isn’t much time.

I begin to walk around and around. It’s a tight circuit. On a level with the tree tops, I can hear the birds’ nervous twitter as they nestle in the trees, surely looking for cover before the storm. Or are they shouting a warning to me?

I am on a pilgrimage of sorts, here as I am adjacent to the church. Drops are starting to plop around me and I find that I am stutter stepping trying to avoid them.  With a flash the sky releases a torrent of coolness.  I stop trying to dodge the rain and instead am embraced by it.

I continue to rhythmically walk in the tight little circuit of the roof, the rain pounding around me, a ratatat counterpoint to my steps. 

And then, just as quickly as it began, the storm ends.  The clouds recoil and reshape themselves once again, the sun streams through the sky.  I imagine that in a few steps I could break free and leap from cloud to cloud, bounding on high.  From there I could see the grid of the world, the pathways and byways, the swaths of space, the connectedness of it all.

***

My three walks, each path moving from vulnerability to a sense of invincibility through movement alone,  all smudge together as I move my feet ever forward. 

Post #98: Delicious Joy

IMG_2387The plan, if there was such a thing, was simple. Escape.

The indoors, usually as snug and comforting as old sweater, tonight felt tight and close, even constricting. Really it made me squirm. But to venture directly out into the darkness? I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I never do. I am always afraid. And yet tonight somehow I jam my feet into my sneakers, tie them tightly, and shut the door tightly behind me.

I am doing this.

It being nighttime I expect murky blackness but instead find myself surrounded by a warm dark brownish glow, a darkness which has a sparkly, an almost shimmery quality that seems to catch reflected light and hold it tentatively aloft. In the distance I can hear the muscular hum of the highway traffic cutting through the air. Peering over the railing I can see them, the cars racing like fierce, double-eyed dragons on the attack. I love seeing them cutting, slicing through the night air!

And so I walk onward. I know my legs are stiff, i know my pace awkward. But I manage. I am not used to this. The sidewalks beneath my feet feel blocky and uneven, massed stones immobile and frozen in concrete, lain square to square. Shyly, I still avoid the cracks.

The nighttime houses are neatly buttoned up, lights glowing from within. Some are stacked like layer cakes, the attic windows warmly lit as birthday candles on top the fondant. Others are neatly wrapped packages, cared for and caressed. I stop for just a moment to smell the roses, embraced by the darkness, pink and roundly ripe. One furtive sniff and I am undone. but a glance at the the hedges as they stand crisp and erect, bordered by proud purple iris dancing tremblingly in the darkness restores me.

My flashlight bobs insinuatingly like a flickering, glinting lantern, I am a modern-day watchman, keeper of the nighttime safety. At least that is how I’d like to think of myself. So when the scent shocks and envelops me, a combination of hydrangeas reaching toward the sky and s’mores cooling from the grills, I nearly swoon.

But I righten myself. Out here there is no one to question me. No one to bother me. No one to make fun of me. I can be foolish or bold it doesn’t matter. There is a delicious joy in for once no one knowing exactly where I am, what I am thinking, what I am doing.

Hedges loom. Trees lurk.

And yet? This is impractical walking. Why walk with no real purpose? Why walk when no one knows precisely where I am ? Simply because the world is full of secrets and full of pleasures to know. I can be a part of it.

After an hour my legs are loosened, my steps l   lengthening, my mind relaxing. I can remember. I can think. Out here in the world. A nighttime walk.

I am, just for a moment, suffused with sensation.

It is enough. And now at last, I am home.

Post #97: Early Morning 5 AM

IMG_2261“There is no need for a faraway fairyland for the earth is a mystery before us.”
—William T. Davis

Viewing time: 5 am to 6 am

Early morning. Tousled rumpled crinkled. I slide out of bed and make my way downstairs to the window., sure footed as a mountain goat descending the peaks. Once there, I press my nose to the glass as anticipatory as a six year old at a candy counter. I am ready.

The show is about to begin!

The birds startle into their chorus, trills pinging through the air, bubbling, riffling through the breeze as they themselves play hide and seek in the darkness. I can’t see them at all. Then a pause and a few stray notes float alone fading as a mote drifting to grass.

As always I’m drawn to the trees, flattened almost black against the muted sky as cutouts in a wordless pantomime. In the distance they are smudged, charcoaled. Their arms seem to reach and flail at the sky clawing, scraping sometimes caressing the very air that surrounds them. Soundless, I know that below their roots are reaching out longingly. For comfort? For solace? Their branches above ground shudder exposed in the wind. I feel an inner chill for them. I do worry. And I do care.

Do the trees somehow call to each other? In some odd way do they watch us as we watch them? How absurd! Except a small part of me still wonders. And in this place of deep quiet, the mystical, the magical seem somehow in place.

I sit quietly, patiently, for once no fidgeting. I watch as closely as I can, hardly moving, because watching for the dawn, incremental moment by moment is like watching a cake bake, a flower open, a child grow. It keeps happening but you can’t see it. But I so want to see it, to keep my eyes wide open and be present.

I think, I feel, I truly wish that in that elusive sliver of time between night and day that maybe this is a place where souls reside, a place of peace where all who lived and loved are whole and safe. Restored and loved.

But I blink. It has happened. But no matter. As the light of the sun warms the world, the trees, once stiff in the blackness, seem to stretch and gleam, the leaves almost quivering to reach out to the warmth. Each leaf covered limb seems enrobed and enobled as a queen in her coronation robes. It’s morning.

I yearn to touch everything, to run my hand over the nubbly bushes, the smooth leaves, the gnarled trunks. Make it mine. If I close my eyes, I can make my fingers tingle with the memory.

Today the sky is blunted and matte, restful, never dull. Behind even the thickest cloud cover, the most violent storm it seems remarkable to remember that always always the sun is behind it all, each and every day. No matter what. Hidden but still powerful. Hidden but still warm. Hidden but still restorative.

Now a stretch. Now a coffee. Now the day begins.

 

Post #89: Cezanne at Dawn

IMG_1224It’s utterly ridiculous. I do it anyway. Although I waken in the thick, viscous blackness of deep night, my glasses are always curled protectively around my eyes. They are my talisman, my mask. It’s so dark that I don’t actually need them. But as always, I do so want them.

I fan out my fingers and lightly caress the wall, my feet moving stealthily with a sure and scuffling rhythm. Out the door and down the stairs, through the kitchen, around the dining room. I feel my way. I know the way.

And I’m here. I don’t move, I don’t even breathe. And just for a moment, I can hear it, an ardent and intense quiet. Through the window, the bare-armed trees are slashed against the puttied, muted sky. Alone and isolated, the heavier branches reach out achingly, the tiny twigs stretch and stretch hard — pawing and clawing at the air. Never static, the scene in front of me pulses almost imperceptibly.

Dawn is coming. I know it but I can’t see it yet. It’s getting lighter, I know it, I’m sure of it. I watch and I watch ravenously. If I squint hard, can I see the images in front of me to their essence as in a Cezanne? If so, what will it look like? What will it feel like?

And there it is. A whisper of time, a gentle sweep of the veil, and I see it. When dawn arrives it isn’t harsh and it doesn’t break. Instead it warms, it caresses. I take off my glasses. The scene before me blends and blurs. For a moment, for me at least, time stops. For a moment, it lingers.

Just then I catch a glimpse of my yearning, unprotected self reflected in the window, the fleeting image frozen in my mind. And I wonder, have I at last glimpsed the essence, at least for the moment?