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.

 

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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?

Post #88: A Thank You Note

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Dearest All,

Welcome to post #88.

Sometimes I think one of the great miracles of my life is just that I’ve been able to put my fingers to keyboard to type out these small essays every other week. Like most of us my life is a convoluted mixture of the mundane and the significant. Even so, I have still jittered out a piece every other Tuesday, with the regular and rhythmic rat-a-tat tat of a Morse code tap, eighty-eight times in a row. I am never sure I can do it. And then somehow I do.

I do because I need to write. I write as a respite, to jump off the merry go round for a bit and actually think, even if I’m never quite sure what I’m going to think about. I write sometimes simply to bash back fears. I write because I’m not terribly brave and in some ways it’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

But today’s post is written for a different reason entirely.

Today’s post is to say thank you.

If you’re reading, and especially good at reading between the lines, every single post relates to something that has actually been happening in my life at the very moment in time each piece is written. Most of those connections are a bit obscure. This one however is very straightforward.

It has to do with winter house terrors involving freezing temperatures, freezing pipes and being frozen with fear about the anticipation of what will happen next.

But I will tell you exactly what happened next. A whole series of people who came and helped: Dawn, our broker from Caldwell Banker, a woman who thought to call with cold weather tips that helped protect us in a house she helped us buy over a year ago, our friend Ralph, the apartment superintendent, who dropped everything to stanch a veritable waterfall in my basement and was at my door before I could sharply exhale breath, and the Robison 3 AM boiler fixers who went above and beyond to help us figure out a water piping system in our basement that resembled nothing less than the snarl of most of my knitting efforts.

Leonardo DaVinci said “Water is the driver of Nature.” I completely agree. But I’ll be honest. I would never have argued the point anyway.

So on this scheduled blog day Tuesday I want to thank all of the kind people above who are so very good and so very decent. We are beyond grateful for your help. And I would like to take a moment as well to thank you, Dear Readers, for your kindness reading along with me, for connecting me, for thinking along with me. You’ve created a bit of a miracle yourselves. What you’ve done is make me feel not quite so alone in the world.

Thank you very much. Until next time then.

As ever, C

Photo: Casey and Annie Rose waiting out the weekend storm.

Post #86: Transformations

IMG_0209To be honest, I’ve always cared much more than I let on. Sbould I let my limbs swim in oversized sweatshirted significance? Prickle to the starched white splendor of a crisply ironed shirt? Thrill to the chill of an Armani silk?

Enrobed, encased, and otherwised armored: time to dress.

***
Ruffled Socks

I sit tensed, my eyes squinting beneath Buster Brown bangs. The man behind the camera snuffles and grumps and fusses with the lens. I am perched birdlike sitting high on a box. I am so very proud! Not just dressed but so dressed up. A starchy white outfit, my own initials CLA stitched in red right on my dress. White ruffled anklets turned over just so. Ruffles on the socks? But then poof! The camera flashes! My wide smile is frozen, set to be frozen in time. It should be over, but all I can think of is yanking those ruffled socks away from propriety, up up up high to my knees!

***

Plaid

A plaid belted jacket. A plaid pleated skirt. A plaid collared vest. A plaid brimmed hat. Non plaid knee socks, but you know, that’s okay. All the plaid pieces fit together, and fit together just so. I’m ready for school.

But is school ready for me? An outfit so stupendous, I am elevated to the stars! Or at least lofted to the top of a desk. I am the model. My classmates are forced to sketch my outfit. And forced, it seems, to sketch me.

***

The White Shirt

Longed for, dreamed of, I had never had one before. But there it was. Perfectly creased and standing at attention, the uniform of grown ups everywhere. I slid into it and was instantly transformed. A second grade grown up. I surely would wear it every day and forever. But alas! My tightly gripped left-hand drags the pencil led straight through my left cuff! In to the wash instead.

***

lLeather Patches

A handful of dimes. A tiny, shiny pile of quarters. A few creased and crumpled dollar bills. Longed for, scrounged for, scrabbed for and saved. Poured into an old sock and then clutched hard all the way to the store.

All those saved allowances to allow me purchase this this prize all for myself. A rumpled brown sweater. A rumpled brown sweater? Really? But of course!That sweater had leather patches on the elbows. The perfect accompaniment to fit with the pile of books that were always in my arms.

***

Powder Blue

Hair feathered, dress polyestered, feet encased in platforms stacked on high! I am the lead-footed, self-conscious youth queen of the disco! Gyrate, point, and twist through the motions. Perhaps subconsciously dreaming of jazz rhythms yet to be discovered?

***

Wide-Legged Jeans

Worn and worn and worn again. Wide-legged jeans, both tight and loose. Week of salads? Loose and loose. Week of sundaes? Tight and tight. No matter. Worn and worn and worn again.

***

The Very Big Sweater

Home for the holidays, snoozing on the sofa, slowly being consumed into the couch pillows. I am woken by the steady sound of my mother’s knitting needles, clacking away like a set of Carmen Miranda maracas. Did I want to try? I did. And so I find myself beside her trying to match her, stitch by steady stitch, adding on, casting off deep into the night. In the early morning, we have a flecked, turtlenecked sweater, green as the valleys of Ireland, made for me and meant of me.

***

The Silk Blouses

Charge into to the workplace in transformative armor, suits by Donna Karan or Tahari (always dreaming of Dior). Beneath it all, the softening silks, neatly knotted at the neck. Stand proud and tall.

***

The Wedding Dress

Simple and square necked, made all of lace, I am wearing the so longed for dress of my dreams, designed for me, and only me, by sister. A dress I will wear only once. And yet, once I slip it on it doesn’t matter.  My thoughts are only on the tall bespeckled man in the double-breasted tuxedo. The one with the perfectly tied bow tie.

***

Black Stretch Overalls

Like paintings displayed on the walls of a museum, exquisite and distant, I gaze absently into my closet. Were these things truly actually mine? There is my entire hard won wardrobe, sized out of reach. I don’t care. Instead, I am absurdly and proudly wearing a pair of black stretch overalls (the better to match with a variety of t-shirts). Perfect. The babies will be born very soon.

***

Black on Black

A jumble of sweaters, a knot of shirts, a pile of pants. All in black. Unseeing, I grab something, anything and throw it all on. Start running. Then up the stairs and down the stairs then up the stairs again. My arms are always so filled with books. My head so filled with ideas. My mouth so filled with words. I scurry from room to room barely able to catch my breath before diving into the next class. Chalk smudged in black.

But sometimes as I run, something lovely will catch my mind’s eye. A lavender mohair sweater. A silvery beaded jacket. A slim, long jacketed pearl grey suit. And I’m certain soon I’ll slip on a new outfit and transform once again.

 

 

Post #74: Summer Swevens (Visions and Dreams)

IMG_1306SUMMER SWEVENS (VISIONS AND DREAMS)

It’s so early that somehow I expect the blackness to be heavy and  thick and inky dark. But it’s not. The trees are flat as black paper cutouts, a sfumato mist hovers in the air.  I shouldn’t be out of the house. But I am.

I find a soft tussock of grass and first touch it gingerly with my toes.  The plants are cool and vertiginous and pliant.   I hesitantly sit and then in a few more moments, luxuriously stretch out.  My eyes wink. Then they flutter. I remember.

***

The Sprinkler

Not to the lake. Not to the pool. Not to the pond.  Not for us! Pushing through the screen door, we are bathing suited, our bare feet burning on the pavement. Hot enough to fry an egg on it?  Should we try?  Jump on the grass where it’s cool then!

We squeal as suddenly a waterfall of what feels like icy tears cascades from above, pelting and peppering us.  Just as quickly the jit jit jit of water arcs back and above, hitting the cherry tree with spray before coming around to us once more.  We are like the tigers at the circus leaping bravely through flaming hoops!   Jump in, jump out, jump in!

Wrapped tight in damp towels, double-sticked grape popsicles clutched in our fingers, our tongues proudly, and perhaps permanently, purple.

***

The Ice Cream Truck

Did you hear it? I heard it!  Run run run! 

Arrive with your dollar clutched wet and tight in your fist.  Wait and wait and wait. Will it ever be my turn? My turn!  With a satisfying katchoonk! the tiny door opens and a whoosh of arctic blasts us back almost across the street.   Bold as Robert Peary himself, the white shirted ice cream man nonchalantly thrusts in his arm into the cold, chips away at the ice floes and pulls out buried treasure:  King Cones, Chocolate Eclairs, Strawberry Shortcakes, and Eskimo Pies.

Solemnly I hand him my doubloon in exchange for real jewel.

***

Riding Bikes

Like a velvet toppered Olympic equestrian, I am tall in the saddle, proudly astride my green, banana-seat Schwinn.  Around and around the circular drive, faster and faster and faster.  This is fine, but you and I  have a plan, don’t we?  You hop on the bike, I’ll clip on the roller skates. Tie the jump rope to the back bar and around and around and around, swing free, swing fast, swing out!  DO. NOT. LET. GO.  But of course,  I do!

***

Our Pool

A run and a leap and a flying cannon ball right  from the board, stretching high enough to touch the trees.  There is a moment—just a moment!—where I’m sure that I’m truly taking off, a hovering second before I plunge deep dark and down to the very bottom.  My eyes open with a start.  How could I be here?  I was sure I could, I knew I could, I thought I could fly.

My head bursts through the surface, water streaming from my nose. But when I breathe in I am  suffused by the alluring scent of hot dogs hissing and splitting their casings as the roast on the grill.  Add mustard and onions and chips.  Sneak bites of brownies from the bottom of the freezer.  Orange soda, red pop, or rock ’n rye?

My Dad says, “Get me a cold one.” I do, adding  ice to his glass of beer.

***

Sparklers

The day drags on thick and hot as pot of pea soup.   But for once, we don’t want it to linger.  For this we need the night.  Hour after hour we wait,  the air scorching and the hot sun pressing against us.  Eight thirty and then nine? Is it dark?  When will it ever ever be dark enough? 

Count three stars in a sky that spreads wide like an ear to ear grin and it’s finally time.  Hold out your hand and it’s solemnly lit.  With a sibilant swish, a crackle, a blaze and the sparkler lights up, a universe igniting in my hand.

Over too soon. Another!  Oh please!  And another!

***

Slowly I open my eyes. The light is edging the sky, becoming soft, changing everything around me imperceptibly but surely, as it is with growing children.  I hear the first tweet of the early morning. A robin.  I see her as she caroms around the trees, swooping and gliding, a skater on air. A ruffle of leaves and she’s momentarily disappeared.  Inside the bush her hungry babies wait in a nest she’s carefully  lined with twigs and feathers. I glance at my house, one I’ve lined with words and books.

It’s time.

A fantasia of early morning spreads like a fan to cool the rising heat of day. Like a  sunflower, my face follows the golden orb as it moves across the sky.  I sigh. Because at last, at long last, once again, it’s summer.

Much warmth and happiness to you all.

Post #73: KATASCOPOS

IMG_1238The dream, of course, was always in place.   A tiny wooden fortress, a look out, safely nestled in the branches.   A rope ladder to be shimmied and then quickly hoisted aloft. At last I’m here!  In my dreams my knees curl talon tight around a branch.  I am an owl, solid and solitary amidst my branches quiet, contemplative and ever so watchful. My eyes grow wide and my heart swells.  A sharp intake of breath.  The world is spread before me as a summer picnic, soft and ripe and full as a sun warmed peach. I feel I can reach out and touch it, yet the distance flattens and somehow makes the whole feel close. I am up and above and at one with the world.

So many years later but in a way,  I am finally here up high, enrobed clouds.  There is no rope ladder but still this little room is stilted upon a high perch, walls of windows welcoming the world outside, framing images that continuously dart and swirl  like a pinwheel.  I am level with the crowns of the surrounding trees but in their majesty there is no sense of kingly distain.  Their gnarled arms reach out, surround and embrace me. I am soaring, sweeping through the air! The wind ruffles the leaves like butterflies tethered to their perch.  I always crave that arboreal embrace.

If I stay very still I can feel the trembles from a susurus of sound,  layers of hum one on top the other, of birds, of insects, even the somehow comforting lull of distant traffic, rising up to my perch.

This is where I want to be.

In his lyrical introduction to the equally exquisite The Peregrine by J.A. Baker, naturalist and writer Robert Macfarlaine speaks of katascopos, a Greek word referring to the supremely lucky “looker downers” who possess the view reserved only for the gods—or the birds.  Or those who scramble up mountain peaks.  Or perhaps those who dream of  perching in tree houses.

I don’t think of this as an omnipotent god-like view at all. Rather it feels remarkably generous and expansive to see all spread before me, the view wide and  open and limitless.  This is not just what I want to see. It’s what I want to feel.

But soon enough I’ll descend once again from up high, gather up my papers and books and bags, to trudge through my day, jangled and jinked.

So to the question: how can one’s spirits soar while one’s feet remain rooted firmly to the ground?  The answer, like some of the most beautiful things, is both clear and simple.

Quietly look and see.   Quietly listen and hear.

Instead of seeing the leaves shiver and tremble in anticipation of a coming storm  I’ll try to catch the momentary blink of uncertainty that shades someone’s face before they speak.

Instead of struggling to discern the tweets and twitters of the early rising birds, I’ll try to truly focus on each word someone is saying instead of silently formulating my own wished for witty response.

What will I learn, what will I hear that I otherwise might miss?  If I try, can I then bring my marvelous treehouse down to earth, the most beautifully wondrous aspects of katascopos to the every day? 

Perhaps!

Post #71: Shehechyanu Moments

FullSizeRenderAnxious and jittered I shudder through my days, fizzed and cocktail shakered from top to bottom. Splash me out into an iced goblet, gussy me up with a speared pimento’d olive, a square of sugar, a paper parasol. Ready to go.

Right the ship. Hold fast. Steady on.

I cling to my books like talismans and like life preservers. I carry them from room to room, sleep with them under my pillow, hide them in my purse. Richard Jefferies, Mary Webb, W.H. Hudson. Jean-Henri Fabre. Like a hummingbird dipping it’s beak full of floral nectar, a line or two gleaned as I wait for the morning announcements. a page absorbed while standing in line for a sandwich. A few more inhaled as I wait for a train.

Then too I peep through windows, hoping to catch a sparkling glimpse. Leaves shimmying on their branches undulating with the wind? An elegant caddis fly hovering just out of reach? The shiver of air left by a bird in flight?

A few moments. Just enough. But never enough.

In the classroom we talk about Marcus Aurelius, the man who so beautifully explains himself to himself in Meditations. The book that was never meant to be read has been read a million times over, over the centuries. Do your duty honestly and faithfully. Be virtuous. Aim for tranquilly. Live— and live for the moment.

To be aware and in the moment is essential, as we steer our course. But to remember? We have the right I think to choose our moments. To grab at the happy ones, allowing the others to recede and creep back to the shadows, leaping from peak to peak and from joy to joy.

Once upon a time I had a favorite prayer, one I only heard once a year. First night of Chanukah, the third prayer. The gorgeous chant for that prayer always made my heart soar and my spirit sing.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned that the Shehechyanu is not meant for just once a year.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam,
shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu laz’man hazeh.

Our praise to You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of all:
for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this season.*

This season, or this moment in time. Or in other words, one is blessed to recite the Shehechyanu at so many happy moments in life. At a holiday that comes around once again. When you see a friend that you haven’t seen in such a long time. When someone you love achieves something never achieved before.

Life is filled with Shehechyanu moments waiting to be experienced and savored again and again. Here’s wishing for many Shehechyanu moments for each of us.

*translation from http://www.reformjudaism.org

In honor of JRF