They met in the dark, and each carried a load. His was smaller.
Hers was too heavy to lift easily and she walked nearly buckled under
its weight. Deliberately careless, he let his pack fall to the
ground, pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket, onto his hands.
Together, they began to dig.
That night, they buried their dead in the deep, dark earth, and by
sunrise they were through. Through digging. Through the stench.
Through the night. The children who would come from that place would
be beautiful, but the diggers would never stop smelling their dead.
Sometimes we can see what will be before it can be. We sense it.
Hear it in the wind. Feel it on our skin. And then it goes – and we
cry out – outraged that it is not yet. We mourn. And there must
needs be a Gethsemane. A Calvary. A death to which we turn and a
resurrection to the new. Then the moment of knowing – the flash of
light transfigured – not a trick of the sun in our eyes, but a
promise – it lives. We know. In that other moment, we were
Days fill up. All by themselves, sixty minutes per hour, they
fill. They pass. Or, that is how it seems. I've begun again to wonder
about this sense of passing. Perhaps I need to move around a bit and
get a better look. I mean, what if they're not filling up, but
instead, I'm standing in the flow of a current, and the time that's
going by is a sense of the numinous – the unspeakable? This is
surely what the mystics mean by God's being in the moment. Only in
the moment. Only in this moment. Inside of now.
The most surprising part of a surprising day was the drive. New
job training, new location, new people, new procedures . . . but none
of these things surprised me as much as the river today. My first day
at that job, and the electricity went down, and the library's own
computer records system crashed briefly, and the public computers got
error messages and went completely nuts. But the river. The deeply
life-flowing water on its way to the sea – the river was near me. I
drove on the highway beside it, and the river knew my name.
The fans blowing in the bedrooms down the hall are trying to move
cooler air through the house. A puff of the night wafts in here too.
Words refuse to surface. I'm in such peace tonight. Sometimes we
don't see much of the unseen. Sometimes we're blind. That's probably
just as well, I suppose. Most of the time, I think, it would terrify
us to know more than we already do. But sometimes – for a moment or
a season – the curtain moves – and we see. We know. The universe
pulses with it. I guess it's love.
Twenty-nine years ago, on this date, July 15, it rained. It was, I
think, about this temperature, just about the same amount of splashy
dampness in the air as there has been today. I remember it because I
was paying a lot of attention to the weather. Today was the day of
our wedding rehearsal. Tomorrow, it was The Day. Twenty-nine years
ago, all I could think about was how ready I was for tomorrow to
finally come. In 1983, it rained every day for the first fifteen days
of July. On the sixteenth day, the sun came out.
Is there anything – anything at all – more luxurious than the
anticipation of a quiet and easy morning coming? Nobody has to leave
early. There's good fresh coffee in the house waiting to be ground
and brewed. There are almond croissants waiting to rise overnight and
be popped into the oven in the when we wake up. There is stuff to do,
of course, but there is no need to do it right away. Not first thing.
Tomorrow, when we wake up in the soft, cool breeze coming through the
window, everything around us will be beautifully still.
Yesterday I skipped another day. Too much to do, too late at
night, too early starting, too many thoughts and attachments and
responsibilities. Today's makes 40 posts instead of 42. I count them.
99 Words for 99 Days is taking longer than that. I watch the numbers.
Click. Click. Today I see the thousand ways I think like a
capitalist. Like a consumer. Like a woman with her harvests gathering
into a barn, almost forgetting to eat, and drink, and be merry,
counting. Keeping track. Enumerating. But tomorrow we die, so . . .
today I think I'll live.
Through the open window this morning, on the fresh morning air, I
could hear the train moving through the Gorge, and I hear it now –
in the evening – after dinner – when the sun is only in the tops
of the fir trees, making them golden against the pale blue of a very
gentle sky. At the base of the trees, enclosed by them, encircled,
our hay field and the man on the tractor, pulling the rake. Clacka
clacketta clacka clacketta – katack katack katack. Smaller and
smaller circles around. Now in the middle of the field.
It's the ninth of July, and yesterday didn't count in my 99 days
because I didn't write here. It's the ninth of July and it's the day
I was going to get married, but the church was booked, so we put it
off for another week. It's the ninth of July and the reason I wanted
to get married on this day is because this was my grandmother's
birthday, and so today I miss her. I miss her lima beans and
tomatoes, and I miss her crocheted slippers and painted pillowcases.
I miss her sharing these things with me.
There's no good reason to be fully awake so early today. I need to
go to work, but not for a couple of hours. If I'd slept in, though, I
wouldn't have seen the sweet and exuberant baby deer with their
mother. Two little ones, one momma, and much cavorting at the edge of
the mown field, over where the blackberry vines engulf the old fence
beside the forest. The trio is not making much progress up the field.
It looks like the walk around the block a two-legged mom might take
with kids. Sidetracked. Random. Leaping, running, morning.
Part of me participating in the day's particles and part of me
elsewhere. I feel stippled. A person made of Pointillism. Pixilated.
All my dots have looked, I think, like a whole and present person to
the people who surrounded me – the people with whom I talked as I
passed out library flyers for the Jugglemania guy and the blood
drive. All around the town I went. “Would you be willing to post
one for us?” “Thank you!” They didn't see my pixels. My points.
My dots of color quivering and ready to fall quietly apart.
The Fourth of July - that's what I've always called it in my head. It's not "Independence Day" to me - not really. On the fourth day of the seventh month of the year, I feel roots and heritage and ties and all the weight and guilt and joy of community. I also feel celebratory in a very personal way. After all, on the day of fireworks and parades and The Pops on the TV out on the deck in the back of the house where my dad sat to eat popcorn in the flickering blue of the screen in the dark after we'd lit our sparklers and written our names in trails of light in the air ... on that day, it was almost my birthday ... and then my grandmother's ... and then my dad's ... and later on, the next thing became my wedding anniversary. The fourth day of the month of July is big for me.
So I wonder - what is it about these national days that seems to encourage national griping? We feel silly in celebrations more of the mid-twentieth century than of our current day, perhaps. Nobody wants to feel as if they still live on the set of Mad Men. Not really. Today I've seen all the "but remember" wet blanketing and its Janus-faced cousin, "because of the military," posts and broadcasts and talking and defending, and now I want to say something.
I don't love America because America is the best place that God ever made. There have been a lot of good places in history and on our planet. But I do love America. I love our brash hopefulness and our resilience, most of all.
Remember the movie Apollo 13? Two scenes in that movie are made of such distilled American mentality that they say it all for me. Jim and Marilyn Lovell are in their backyard, looking up at the moon, after their party. He says to her, "From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it's not a miracle, we just decided to go."
Then there's the scene at Control in Houston, when they realize they've made square pegs and round holes between the parts of the craft. [Several technicians dump boxes containing the same equipment and tools that the astronauts have with them onto a table]
We've got to find a way to make this
[square CSM LiOH canister]
fit into the hole for this
[round LEM canister]
... using nothing but that.
And they do it!!
That's why I love America. We dare. We dare to dream of possibilities that don't yet exist - and we stride out into our possibilities and fix it when we get there.
We're about to fix health care, I think. It might take us another hundred years. We don't really want to fix it the way the Old World fixed it - and really, we probably shouldn't. In America, we need to do things the way that works for Americans. But we can, and we will, and I think we've started to. Whenever we have remembered that we're all Americans, and that we can and should take care of each other, we have fixed all kinds of things. We opened our colleges to returning veterans and paid their way -- and got the most incredible generation of ideas, corporations, innovations, and public servants imaginable. We stopped pretending that those who don't own land, or women, or black people weren't people. We realized we all have a stake in this land we love. And we opened up the vote. We freed our slaves (finally!), and we have been hammering and rubbing away at the vestiges of inequality ever since.
We know, deep in our starred and striped hearts, that all men are created equal, and that the tyranny of the rich and powerful is not for us. It's time to fight for that idea once more. Here we are again. One nation. Indivisible. This is our heart, and this is our soul, and this is how we work it. Our nation is The People of The Idea, and that idea is a fair playing field and a sure and certain knowing that we are, all of us, rich and poor and black and white and brown and gay and straight and Christian and Muslim and Jew and Buddhist and pagan and heathen and Native and ordinary and extraordinary ... every single one of us, right to expect liberty and justice for all. And for that, I love America.
A liquid sigh begins to seep into my bones and breath, as if some underground source has come to where the soil and roots begin to feel it. A headboard for our bed, resurrected from an attic, refinished, glowing with fresh polishing and stain. Simple but elaborate. Tall. Like the Norse grandfather who built and used it for his own. Linens have been unearthed, and a mysterious handmade wooden box, an ink bottle in its niche, dried ink inside of it. And now he is looking for the glue so he can repair the old cedar chest. For us.
Working at the library on brain-dead days has its compensations.
The work is just absorbing enough to keep a body conscious, for one
thing. But there are also the kids. Keep one ear out for the kids.
The little brother standing at the dollhouse table and fishing lions
and tigers and bears out of the bucket of rubber animals says, “This
is a really funny one!” His sister requires more info. “Well, how
funny is it?” The gaggle of little girls comes in together, and
whispers at the catalog, comparing notes, helping each other find
The best part was that he followed his bliss. After he raised his
kids, he went back to school, and he used everything he'd learned in
fathering. The best part was that the students in my class, who
themselves have small children, cheered. The best part was
overhearing her, at lunch, saying, “It's impossible to hold a baby
too much! That's ridiculous!” The best part was the immigrant's
dream, fresh from the night before, so strong, so protective. The
best part was when I got to say to him, “This is the story of a
Today I heard a hurrah ascend for the dad who had the terrible dream. His kids and their mother had gone to the mountains. His true, best, love was being torn asunder. Go to the city? Follow his bliss? Do what he was born to do? …. or …. Follow that woman, live in that tiny town, carry on a with a ho-hum job, and raise his kids? The class was on tenterhooks. What did he do? The parent-students wanted to know. “He raised his kids,” she said. A cheer erupted. The class applauded that man.
On the last day of the first half of the calendar year, I’m
in a Gillian Holloway course, and again, as last time, it’s gift after gift
after gift. This, I can use! I wonder now – are the ways of dreams not merely
the Salvador Dali representations of the things we’re telling ourselves and
trying to know and needing to have (or to stop having)? Are dreams also a
constructed garment we can turn inside out? See the seams? Look at the
construction? Find what we are made of? Does the way we’ve dressed ourselves
come fashion our dreams?
As I knew she would be, Gillian Holloway is amazing. As I
had no idea would happen, the class is absolutely brim full! Discussing dreams
with more than twenty people at a time is quite the undertaking, and I’m on a
bit of a psychological high – like with drugs – a really good trip, man. Whoah ….!
Look at these dreams! And once again, as I never do anticipate, but as happens
so often it crushes me and brings me to my knees in breathless prostrate
gratitude, there is generosity. Abundance. Love. When God made people, he made embodied
I heard amazing stories today. And I started an amazing course in Native American Culture and Literature this week. I feel saturated in stories. A wonderful teacher once said to us, “Meaning isn't a given, it is a process. It involves an interaction between the reader, text, author, culture, history, etc. There is great agency given to us in this demand for interpretation.” Right now, I pack my bags. A weekend course in Dream Psychology is waiting. The stories others tell me, and the stories I tell myself – always I hear stories. And the Word became flesh.
They came, they sawed, they chippered … and then they took their trucks and left. The electric lines must be raised. They limbed our trees to make room. The kid must have been only barely old enough to work on the crew – he got sent to tell me about the young oaks they'd cut away. We stood in the yard and talked about the land, watching the work. “You don't see many houses with fields by them anymore,” he said. “Just keep going up the hill,” I told him. “There are more fields further up.”
Through the open window I can hear the sound of a power sander
sanding something in the garage. I leave my apron on. I leave the
house. I walk through the curtain of tiny silver raindrops, across
the grass, across the gravel, under the walnut tree. The dog stands
up to say hello. “What are you doing?” I ask the man. “Which
color do you like?” he asks me. He has started to test stains on
the headboard he found in an attic, the headboard his
great-grandfather built. I choose the darker stain. We have yellow
I'll have a leisurely start to summer – or maybe not. I'll ease
into my new courses and take just the one online this time, because
wouldn't it be fun to do two weekend courses? That's what I'll do –
or maybe not. Permissions granted, forms filled out, calls made,
switcheroos performed and, no. Definitely not. This summer it's two
online courses. A grind? A hot, sticky climb to the blissful cooling
of autumn? Well, maybe not! Maybe a summer full of Systems Thinking
(aka, How Stephanie's Brain Works Anyway) and the literature of
native nations. Un-fun? Definitely not!
They've canceled my class – maybe. I'll take Milton, Dante, and
Blake instead – maybe. But it involves driving, and weekly bakings
and blowings in a car not air conditioned all the way to school and
back are not only expensive, they're disheveling. I could take
Statistics, and study math online in the heat in my office instead.
But I could drive home in the summer nights, when the temperature
cools and it's okay if my hair stands on end because I'll be home
soon and I love the minds of Milton, Dante and Blake. So … maybe
In the living room. Being repaired and reassembled with the
elastic cord we bought at a dizzying craft store on the way from the
mind-numbing sameness of all the sports shoes in all the world at the
other stores we went to. Her tent is in my house, and her lingering
cough and slow breathing will be in our guest room, her self in the
back seat in the car tomorrow morning when we drop her off. She goes
back to the woods. Takes tent, shoes, boots, and all. We'll have
other Saturdays. I want to make a quilt.
Just like you, just like me, just like everybody else. “Cosmo, I just want you to know no matter what you do, you're gonna die, just
like everybody else.” “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth.” “All men are as
grass,” and that – right there – “That's the blank,
unholy surprise of it.” Like beasts - like the grass - like the seasons and the fields and the end of each day, we end. Not miracles like the stars. Not miracles like universes or like the deep sea. We are the miracles of a moment.
She sent a postcard from Leavenworth, Washington, and on the back
it says, “Beware falling kitch.” He's in a band called Sorry
Devils. And he is watching a cult Russian film from the 80's – a
film that gave this picture its name. I took herbal remedies to one
mom and homeschooling stuff to the other. He and his brother went out
together to tie the goats out in the good weather. Yesterday, I put
away the candles altogether and now the liquor is atop the piano once
more. Summer has come. Everyone is in the right place.
I've been thinking about a character. She's me who I was, but I
never was her. She's still here. I saw her in the eyes of a man who
used to be the little boy I babysat. I saw him this past weekend. At
the wedding, I saw him. He sat in a chair and said to his wife,
“She's always this tall. In my head, this is how tall I am, and
this is how tall she is.” He framed the distance with his hands. He
remembers her. I remember her too. In search of an author.
Almost forgot! This is only day 19, and I almost didn't make it.
At thirty minutes to go, just under the wire, my 99 words for the
day. Social History of Rubber – check! Philosophy and Environmental
Science – check! Summer is actually here! Check! And this was the
day someone said, What if we approached aging human bodies with the
same sense of amazement and wonder as we would have for a very very
old tree? Each crag and crack and cranny – every fissure and every
fold – all wonderment of reverence for the biography in biology.
Once, I heard a therapist say that children compare their private
lives to the public lives of their peers and so believe that
“everyone” is doing it. This weekend I read an article about the
“meta-bias” rooted in our ability to spot the mistakes of others
and our inability to spot those same mistakes in ourselves. New Agers
talk about resonating to the music of others; Old Wives say that what
Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than it says about Paul.
Today, after listening, I notice that self-indulgent wordiness
irritates me . . . and I cringe.
Sleepy, sultry, soft weather, and more of this year's clouds
arranged in ways you'd like to capture with paint and canvas, but you
know you would never be able to do it. Has it always been like this?
Has the start of every summer been so self-assured and happy, and I
too busy or distracted to take notice? Probably, the person who
invented silk cloth got inspiration from days like this. Cool and
slippery and warm in the sun. We got a quiet rain last night. This
morning, when she opened her eyes, the young summer was a bride.
Today my nephew has a wife and I have an essay about the social
history of rubber to write. Marylhurst students graduated, and I
watched and listened live online. I put an armload of dirty denim
into a washing machine, added soap, and turned it on, and I'm typing
into a wireless keyboard balanced on my knees because I cannot bear
to sit properly at my desk. And in the midst of all this futuristic
way of life, the cat sleeps in the sun, the air smells like warmed
cut grass, and the dark old fir trees laugh quietly.
It feels like being in the pool at the Y, in the summers of being a kid - only without the sting of too much chlorine up my nose. That's what this summer feels like.
We took swimming lessons in the summer, and I was never really much of a fan. There were, to my mind, several problems with swimming in the pool at the Y. Chlorine, other people, swimsuits, water that was never warm enough, and the inevitably resulting nasty head cold, for instance. But I remember a very specific thrill that comes when some new skill is tried. Some letting go of the edge of the side gutter, or some opening of the eyes underwater (even now, I want to thump the person who chlorinated the pool at the Hollywood YMCA). I remember the day I dove deep and scraped my nose on the bottom of the pool because I dug deep with my arms and pushed through the water ... but my eyes were closed and the bottom was nearer than I'd thought.
Swim lessons and I were never friends, and I still hate public pools, but I remember that one thrill. I remember what it was to be scared and excited at the same time, and to have the water surround and hold my skinny white body - water miraculously unkilled by that wretched chlorine - chlorine that stayed in my hair and skin for days. The water knew things. Even then, I knew that the water knew things.
It's odd, this summer of 2012. Like the year's almost-palindromic numbers, there's a sense of repeating a pattern, but with a slight hitch. A new stroke of the pen has happened since 2002, and the pattern does not go backwards the same as forwards now.
For one thing, this summer, the Little Kids of all those Christmases of all of those years that have happened in the space of O Holy Night - just the first verse - those Little Kids are now the generation of weddings and new couples and new households ... and we - my brothers and I - now we're the generation of the aunts and uncles who watch and smile and dab at our eyes. Some huge wave has broken across the pool, and taken their little baby hands from the side gutter, and while we heard the glub glub sound of the water at the corner drains, the babies swam off! They've been diving and getting out and shaking themselves off and diving back in again and now the pattern repeats - but they're not babies. The youngest son of my youngest brother is getting married today. Tonight there will be a new Mrs. in the family. This summer of lessons starts now.
Summers used to be like this. I remember this. All at once, in every direction, things that are the same have changed and the pattern that repeats is altered. Life acts like some kind of crazed flowering bush - in a wet and endless spring, budding ... budding ... budding ... and then, POW! All the flowers at once. A family wedding - but not my generation's brides and grooms. This is the wedding of one of the little kids. We'll work on the house this summer, and we'll have another anniversary, and I'll have a birthday, and so will our own youngest son ... and the house and our marriage and my birthdays and our kids - they all hold all the other years inside of them, and so this is the same only different.
First I got married, and then your uncle did, and then your
parents. Then I had a baby, and then I had another one, and then your
aunt and uncle did, and then your parents. One more round of that,
and there you were. Bub, who smiled with his whole being. You still
I'm pretty sure our whole story happened last week sometime, and
so I'm not quite sure how you could be getting married today, but I
know this: I can wish you nothing more happy than what we pass now to
you. Congratulations, Caleb and Hannah.
Today I took my horrid science book
back from whence it came, and used the gain from doing so as a
starter fund for the summer's studies. I sold back the silly book and
bought two good ones instead. Tomorrow I shall write the back half of
the rubber paper, an alchemy of happenstance and horrors,
exploitation and innovation – the story of human people figuring it
out. I'll finish it tomorrow. And since Saturdays are for finishing
the week's work, and since a Saturday will follow, this week my life
is giggling, and I shall have two Saturdays.
Stay. Here. Inside this moment, not
escaping from it, but burrowing deeper in. Here I find the window of
eternity as surely as a traveler might find a noon without a shadow
by moving only a little at a time to stay in time with time, an
earth, entranced with the sun. I have all my pasts with me. I move –
the flower's face is mine – and I keep all myself. If striving, I
pull up roots. Leaning into hurry, shadows fall where there is not yet
my ground. And so I stay. Here. Inside this moment.
… rubber tree plant! Oops! There goes another rubber tree … oops! There goes another rubber tree … found a timeline – I can use the book. Found a book and I can write it now. Oops! There goes another college class. Oops! There goes another research day. Research rubber for the final day. Oops! There goes another rubber tree. Social hist'ry exploitation and oops! There goes another rubber tree. Not the tree, but people runnin free. Hail the human creativity. Why not innovate and also see brothers not slaves in captivity. Oops! There goes another rubber tree plant.
If I went to sleep at four in the
afternoon, how many days would it be before I could go to bed at
night?If I fell over backwards in my desk chair for real all the way,
would I actually break my neck? If I could still talk, would I tell
the person who finally found me that I was trying not to sit up too
straight while removing my legs from the top of the desk and that I
cantilevered myself just a bit too far in an effort not to exert any
extra effort? (Probably not.)
He'll save the Indian food for later
and so this week my Sunday night won't smell like curry. He says
he'll just share the mushrooms with me – because it's already fifty
o'clock. It sure is. Every bit of me is tired and every hour of the
last few days is sitting heavily between my shoulder blades and
rubbing against my lower eyelids. It's good that lungs and hearts and
livers keep on working even when the words get stuck in lumps of
balled up tired and thoughts all start to sound like the gibberish of
I found the graves today. After class,
I drove to the opening in the wall, and I parked my car and got out.
I walked into the garden and I saw one brand new, soft place. One
freshly laid little spread of flowers. Calla lilies. When did they
begin to bury sisters here, I wondered? 1908 – or thereabouts. I
cannot now remember because I was too busy saying thank you. Because
of their lives, I can have this life. Thank you for loving this
place. For loving your students. For loving each other. Faithful
sisters, I thank you.
There are now two hours before class time, two class times
left for Technology and Power, four or five pages of a final Philosophy essay
to write, two new books from Powell's about the history of rubber sitting in
the car, two books returned to this library, six (or was it seven?) books
checked out from the library at home while I worked for four hours before I
made three stops on the way to school, and this class will last for three hours
tonight and seven hours tomorrow, and then one evening left to finish the
What's the point? It's all broken. All
the systems are broken. No one ever listens to anyone anyway and we
have all these problems and it's because our government has gotten
too big. Or maybe it's because the government is under the thumb of
lobbyists and donors. Or it's because of too much war. Or it's
because the Maayan calendar prophesied doomsday and Nostradamus said
we were all going to die and the End Times are here and God's
judgment's begun. Or … maybe this is a day like any other,
Some days I wake up way too early.
Sleep evaporates. Grabbing at the mist does no good, so I get up and
usually I begin to write. Fish around in my head. Turn into a
Psalmist – Why are you so disquieted within me, O my soul? I hypo
some condriacal thoughts – What diet has caused this? What looming
illness? Maybe one of the kids – What's wrong? What's happened? I'm
Mrs. Castorini. “Who died?” But no one did and nothing's wrong.
Only the world has rotated again, and the sensible birds outside my
window are calling.
The transit of Venus only happens twice
eight years apart and then not again for more than a hundred years.
This time, it happens while good Queen Elizabeth is celebrating her
Diamond Jubilee. We saw her on the news today, impeccable as always.
“God Save the Queen.” A sixty gun salute. A flying flag. The
crowds below and on the balcony the soft peach color of the lace on
William's Kate, and the muted stoney brown on the wife of Charles,
and his mother, dressed in white - a woman as rare, I think, as the
transit of Venus.
I can hear her zipping up the duffles, and I can hear the rain outside landing quietly on leaves. She leaves today. I can hear the creek outside the window next to the driveway down the bank flowing down the hill. The TV's on. Quiet, though. She doesn't like it loud. That was one of her first sentences - “too loud.” (The firetrucks were, and so was the garbage truck that came to our apartment building and made that beeping sound. And crashing when it dumped the dumpster out.) The train will not be too loud. For her.
What's weird about Sundays is that they
come every week, but still I'm not ready in the morning when I need
to be, and what happens while we're at church, and after that, is
never what I thought would happen. Wind blows where it wants to. So
I always do need a tissue. It was a good idea in the olden days for
women to wear long sleeves to church because then they had someplace
to tuck a tissue or a handkerchief and I don't even own a
handkerchief so I have to keep my tissues in my purse.
The weird thing about working at the
public library is that there are so many interesting people to notice
and hear and help and see and wonder about, but writing about them
would probably get me fired. But I will someday. Write about them, I
mean. I'll write about the girl already too heavy and too large, and
still young enough to be wearing a huge purple flower in her hair to
match her dress, and all the questions I have about smart girls and
large bodies and the hopefulness of learning how to put a book on
Because she's always on her way in, or
on her way out – that's why. Because I'm the mom – that's why.
Did you expect me not to? She will not even see me. It's just a
little sprinkle. She's too old to need my help and besides – I
don't want to interrupt. And when she's out again, out in the woods
this time, out in a known unknown to supervise the times of others
coming after her this time … this time, the sprinkling waters small
spring plantings. The roots are deep enough. There is no flood.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, there will be school work to do because today I couldn't do that because today I interviewed for my jobs because they are my jobs and I want them back.
and then I went to see the bookstore in the Orthodox church and met the lady minding the shop, and she had slung her fur coat over the chair behind the counter and I bet she's owned it for decades and maybe her large rings were newer than that but maybe not, and she was wonderful, and tiny and she was ninety-four years old.
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; except today was not a creeping pace. No petty pace, this day. The lady in the bookstore is, she told me, a cancer survivor. She got it in her eighties, she said. And chemo was rough. Your hair falls out, you know. But this morning she got an appointment right away with the doctor - for something wrong with her leg, I think, and she was so glad. She told the person on the phone she was so glad she got to see him then. Because it gave her a reason to drive at that hour. And it was snowing. And it was so beautiful.
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! or not. Out, out, or maybe we can live to be ninety-four and dress fit for immediate seating in a better place than dusty, and be so kind and practical and sweet. And little. She was so little. I didn't notice until she took my card and ran it through the machine and waited. What a tiny little person! What a good cut, her skirt was fashioned from.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, unless it doesn't. Sometimes life is brisk and quick and pays attention for a very long time and remembers our neighbor from the old house. Oh, yes. She remembered him. Vanikiotis is an old family name, and she remembers him very well.
And then is heard no more. Or is. Because she still remembers him. And he was kind and she is kind and when her friends stop in to see how her appointment went this morning, she speaks in Greek. Or English. Or Greek. It doesn't matter.
It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, or love. It might be full of love and it might be told by a woman born when the last century was young, and now she takes her daughter's phone calls on her cell phone, because she's fine, the doctor said. She's fine.
Signifying nothing. Or maybe something. Today, I see that it is really something and Macbeth was wrong. He never met the lady volunteering in the bookstore. But I did.
Hello, Blog Readers (if there are still any left after my being so neglectful for so long).
See how that period is after the parenthetical expression? I've been in school. I've been citing things in MLA and APA citation conventions, and I've been getting closer and closer to the degree I started in a different life and yesterday and oh my word is it end of term again already?
It's also end of hiatus from the library, I think. Yesterday I did all the testing for all the levels of library work I was doing when I quit last summer. Was it last summer? I can't remember. I also can't take any seniority or experience back with me in any sort of official way, and this is the third time of testing. The third time of hiring. The third librarian in our local branch to have to interview me before I can have a job under her authority and direction.
Apparently, I am a Repetitive Starter, starting again. Old college degree unaccredited, so I started again. Twice I've been hired for work at the library, never have I had any chance at anything but sub work, thrice I have been tested and I am starting again. My religious life. My writing life. My homemaking life. Start again. Start again. Shut down. Reboot. Clear the cookies. Start again.
Is this why I like to work with kids? Because they are all always at the start of things? See that? See the fragments and run-ons and deliberate mistakes? I've been in Lit classes and wallowed in Poetry. I've become so familiar with The Rules that now we play with each other and make each other laugh and cry and moan and roll our eyes. Our I's. Oh, aye!
But I notice something. Same tasks, same series of skills sets to stack and survey and sustain ... but different me. I am not the same.
I've been thinking about that lately. I'm reminded when I look down at my right hand as it holds the pages of my prayerbook. The part of my hand between my thumb and first finger -- it's wrinkled and starting to look like an old woman's hand. Only in certain lights. Only sometimes. But my hand isn't young anymore.
When I was in the sixth grade, we had an art teacher who came into the classroom once a week. From her, we learned the color spectrum -- and colored flowers with yellow at the center and all the colors in order to the outside points of the petals where they were darkest purpley blue and almost black. The colors blended together where they changed from one to another. A few spikey shards of yellow reached almost to the outside rim, and yet all the colors filled the petals in order.
I have drawn that flower every once in awhile for all my life since then. Spectrum. Blending. Order. Spectrum. Blending. All the colors, all in order, just like a rainbow caught in the fantasy of a flower that could never be but everyone knows it's a flower anyway.
We drew our own non-dominant hands, too. After we learned about perspective drawing, we put our "other" hands into a pose, and drew them with our pencils. Shading. Line. Perspective. Creases and bends and knuckles and nail bed and cuticle. I remember my sixth grade hand, and the one that holds the pages down when I study or pray - it's the same, but it has texture now. My hand is older.
In this moment, on a Saturday morning right before spring, when the fog and the rain are blurred together outside my window, and the quarter is almost over, and my jobs at the library are almost back in my hands again, I notice this. My hands are older.