View from an Elliptical

My eyes are drawn through the gym’s windows by sudden movement in the sky. An arrowhead of geese – a trio of them – pierces the drizzle, cutting the sky on the bias: southwest. The geese land at the edge of an impromptu lake – a gathering of rainfall, runoff from the abundance of water. These temperatures…all this water…This cannot be right for January.

The geese laugh at their good fortune to have so little distance to travel this year.

I continue on the elliptical, logging more miles, working hard at nothing, standing in place and heading nowhere at all.

 

This was written for this week’s 100 word challenge at Thin Spiral Notebook.

Cold

“It’s the cold what converts water to ice.” Billie points to the branch where drops of frozen water cling. “The cold claims the water from itself. Turns it hard and swollen.”

“Like Momma’s heart?”

Billie frowns at her granddaughter. “Bitty child oughtn’t worry about the weight of your momma’s heart.” She breaks off a nub of ice. “Press it in your palm. The warmth will melt it.”

Were it so easy to melt the heart of her daughter, the mother of this child standing before her. Is she destined herself to pass time frozen in time? “Press it tight, child.”

This was written for this week’s #100wordchallenge at The Thin Spiral Notebook.

 

Key

I wish I knew the story behind the oversized silver key, found in a box of treasures my father pointed me to as he lay dying. Three numbers – 3, 3, 4 – are unequally spaced upon the key’s face. There’s a hole at the top, to accommodated a key ring.

Why did my father keep the key? What meaning did it hold? What memories are locked inside? I’ll never know: Without memory, without context, the key is merely a key, not a storyteller.

And yet, I hold onto it, a reminder of all the stories I neglected to hear.

 

This post was written in response to the Hundred Word Challenge.

Microburst

Parked outside my front door are two city trucks, hazard lights flashing. Three or four yellow-vested men stare into the naked branches of a sweet gum tree and the limb that dangles dangerously overhead. A neighbor kibitzes with the workers as they ponder how to extract the limb before it falls on someone’s head. A woman stops to talk while her dog sniffs beneath the trees. I drink my coffee and watch this impromptu scene gathering before me.

The limb is a remnant of the storm that ripped across town last September, a microburst, the meteorologists called it, which, according to the fireman I’d asked, is basically a tornado turned on its side, flying, tumbleweed-style, just above the treetops. Three months on, we still talk about that storm, contractors enumerating how many roofs they’ve repaired, homeowners counting their blessings about the tree that sliced neatly across two yards and tore down a fence but didn’t hit anyone’s house. There are stacks of split logs in endless backyards. Here and there are crooked stumps. And in the woods, trees are stretched across the ground as if merely resting.

* * *

Continue reading

Final Bow

Candleflame flickers. It bends to the right,
taking a bow before righting itself,
as if someone has just passed

before it. But she sits here alone,
the candle lit in memory of her father,
gone now these nine long months:
the time it takes to grow a child.

She sits and writes and streams NPR
to catch up on the news,
waiting for her family to return to her–
from work, from school, from a pickup game of street soccer–

Dinner is ready: burgers and potatoes. Roasted Brussels sprouts and,
for dessert, the three cupcakes the neighbor brought
for her birthday.

After dinner, they quarter the cupcakes,
decide which one they like best,
the chocolate, the spice, the angelfood cake,
except for her son who eats without tasting
before hurrying back outside to his game.

The dishes are cleared, the table wiped.
She puts on the kettle and blows out the candle,
the memory of her father leafstains on the sidewalk.

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.