Committed

February and I’m busy planning my garden, leafing through the seed catalogues, circling more vegetables than my yard can hope to accommodate: Tomatoes and carrots; onions and lettuce.  But not asparagus.  Never asparagus.

Asparagus is a commitment to place: After planting, you have to wait three or four years before first harvest.  And I am not committed to this land.  Oh, my husband and I have cared for it well enough, maintaining the house, mowing, trimming, putting in flowerbeds.  But I do not love this land: My heart, my soul belongs to the country.

Every time a new farm comes on the market, my husband and I jump in the car and head north or west, head away, away from the suburbs, hope in our hearts.   But it never works out: The house is beyond repair; The basement is damp; It’s too far from a train station.   We return home, disappointed, look at the tiny plot outside our window, sequestered neatly behind our fence, strangled by the close distance of others.

In the eight years since I was transplanted from the country to the suburbs, I have adapted: I have grown and learned and made new friends.  But I will flourish best in my native land.  It’s time to return to the country.
I want to get my hands in some rich, dark soil. I want to wake to birdsong, fall asleep to the chorus of spring peepers.  I want to meander through the woods and in the fields, not along a prescribed path of concrete.

Before it’s too late, I want my children to appreciate the land.  I want them to know the value of hard, physical work, to take pride in something they’ve accomplished.  I want them to know the heft of a hammer; to feel sore muscles and joints.  I want them to pick berries and see the vulnerability of an egg moments after it’s been laid.  I want them to build a tree house, raise a goat, cut asparagus.

Soon, my husband says.

No, I will not plant asparagus this year.  For if I commit asparagus to this ground, I commit to this place and I give up on my little farm in the country. So, for now, I’ll grow my tomatoes and turnips, carrots and kale, and dream of the time when the little green shoots erupting from the ground announce that I am finally at home.

Note: This was the very first blog post I made, back in February of 2011. Now that I am indeed at home and have tucked my asparagus into the ground, it’s time to move on. I’m committed, this time to a larger piece of writing that will occupy much of my time. Thanks so much for being faithful readers.

EverPresent

Monday

Delicate white flowers grow along the bike path under a slice of blue and cloudless sky. I will take a bit of this wildness home and plant it in my back yard, to tame my tendency to salve my wants, my everpresent search for the Everything–nay the One Thing I seek–with dollars and cents.

Dissatisfactions stirred like a pitcher of lemonade swirled with a long whirling spoon, a plastic red ball on top like a maraschino cherry.

Unsettled.

I find I am in a flurry, rushing here and there, going nowhere, chasing myself about until I’ve forgotten the purpose and the meaning.

Each of us in quest of the same thing clothed in various costume: To love and be loved in spite of everything. To have the courage to stand where we are and take a chance and bloom, exposing our full faces to the world.

Tuesday

My white magnolia blooms cup the snow,
unexpected and cruel,
destroying the blossoms I’ve waited all year to see.

Wednesday

I walk down the muddy stream bank,
dip my toe into the bracken water.
But the day is fine and clear and I
scramble up the other side and continue towards campus

where a boy in rust-colored pants and
bright red tennis shoes carries an overstuffed
backpack and a cardboard coffee cup.

Magnolia blossoms weep snowmelt.
Fragile petals glisten in the sunshine and I can’t
stop thinking
how beautiful life is.

 

The Thread of Ancient Memories

“What’s that sound?” Cari’s eyes widened.

William took a kind of pleasure in knowing something his granddaughter did not, this child of the city, this child of gleaming buildings and pavement and subway trains. “Woodland chorus frogs.” He paused, listening. “Grey tree frogs. Spring peepers.” He watched her looking around and felt himself filled with love for a child he barely knew. “Look there.” He pointed to a rotting log where a line of turtles sunned themselves before slipping into the water at their approach.

Cari’s yellow boots were smeared with mud. The hem of the dress she’d insisted upon wearing was black. She’d lost the ribbon he’d tied into her hair after breakfast. “You look just like your momma, when she was a kid.” Continue reading

Winter Aconites

To the college kid, who came into the bank yesterday at noon

striding up to the teller window, all smiles and confidence,

digging your wallet from the back pocket of your tan pants

with the cuffs rolled up just so,

telling the woman behind the counter

I admit it. I cannot manage my money,

asking for a hundred bucks in cash:

 

You wondered derisively what was playing on the radio,

a child’s plastic radio, yellow and red, angled into a corner,

gathering dust,

a radio outgrown and left behind, exchanged, perhaps, for an iPhone

tucked in a pocket.

 

The teller laughed uncomfortably,

and so did the woman who sat at her desk before me,

staring at the computer screen.

Moments before you came into the bank,

she was talking with me about the high cost of college education

and her hopes

for a scholarship for her daughter.

 

You went on to say that the music is throw-back eighties, and that

all you could picture was big hair.

The teller laughed again and said you

were probably right and then added an apology: It’s lite rock.

 

You looked around the bank for an audience, putting

yourself on stage,

perhaps a pedestal,

and said you never knew a musician

who aspired to say he was a lite rock guitarist.

And then you added that you listen exclusively to jazz.

 

I sat there, my son’s crumpled dollar bills in my hand,

waiting for the computer screen to

unfreeze so I could open his account.

I tried to understand:

 

Perhaps you saw yourself, twenty years hence,

clicking keys on an adding machine,

staring at a computer screen,

wondering how you would pay for your children’s college.

 

Perhaps we saw ourselves twenty years ago,

our confidence untempered by time.

 

Perhaps none of us liked the image

of what we saw, our past and future selves

reflected in the other, each content with our nows

but not with our thens.

 

I left the bank and headed home, the music playing on.

And I saw that the winter aconites had

confidently opened their faces to the sun,

knowing not the

foibles of humanity.

 

 

Night Falls

They say that darkness falls all a’ sudden

like a blackout curtain dropped across the stage

separating us from the light.

 

But that’s not so.

 

We turn towards darkness, gradually, gently,

until figures become indiscernible, one from the other.

 

As the spring peepers sing, nightshapes blend and bleed, stretching towards each other, like the naked branches of the magnolia tree reaching for the sweet gum to comfort and console; to reassure I am here. I’ll see you on the morrow.

 

And in the morning, those very same branches will draw back the curtain of night to turn us back toward day. We will stop to admire the jeweled leaves adorning their knuckles and realize that suddenly it is spring.

 

In Her Wake

They fed each other cured walnuts she’d gathered from the woods last fall, breaking the hard exterior beneath the blows of a hammer stolen from her father’s toolbox and prying out their broken hearts with a pick.

Hand in hand, they walked the pristine lawn, dull blades of grass succumbing to their bare and tender feet. “Look.” He pointed.

She stopped and paused where the mower blades had scraped away the rough roots of the oak tree, two hundred years old, according to local lore, and struck by lightening twice. There was a gap in the trunk, where she used to secret her treasures: Notes from old boyfriends. A journal she needed to hide from her brother. Cash for the time she considered running away. Now, she stuck her hand in the gap and withdrew a plastic bag.

“What’s that?”

She turned and stuffed the bag in her pocket. “Nothing.” She stared at the roots of the tree, imagining the blades of the mower endlessly chasing after themselves, head over heels until they stumbled upon a knot of wood and choked and had to back up and take a new path.

“I love you,” he said.

She reached a hand in her pocket. Felt for the familiar bag, pressed her thumb against the shape, tracing the thin hollow circle again and again.

She had stumbled. “I love someone else.”

She turned and walked again towards home, leaving neatly trimmed blades of grass and a weeping root in her wake.

 

~

This was written for this week’s Studio30+ prompt.

 

 

Truths Untrue

Again, the children called for me to join them. “Come, Eva,” they urged, patting their dirty hands against my skin, pale and unfreckled.

“I cannot.” I shook my head to emphasize the point I had made every day, as if that would finally convince them of the truth of my words. But children, being children, are full of the possibilities inherent in impossibility.

Innocence is beauty. Continue reading

Leaving only Vapor

“I had just come to accept that my life would be extraordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

He sat up and stared. No, he has no name. Don’t bother asking, I already did. He prefers anonymity. Anyway, he sat up, shoved the cat from his lap. “Extraordinary, how?” He took a sip of the tea he’d requested, tea I’d had to order from China. Pu-erh something or other, aged in the skin of an orange. He drank four cups each time he came, sitting elegantly upon the sofa he’d convinced me to put on my credit card, paying it off fifty bucks at a time so that he could rest his brittle bones upon a soft leather seat.

“Oh…” I reached into the plastic sleeve and grabbed another Thin Mint. Yes, he preferred the tin from Harrods, but he’d polished them off last month and I hadn’t yet gotten around to placing a new order, despite his persistent reminders. “Well, perhaps extraordinary is too strong of a word.”

“I see.” Another sip of the tea. A resigned sigh as he reached for a cookie.

“My socks, for instance.” Continue reading