On Bike Racks and Their Installation

 

I wish I could live more confidently
boldly
knowing all is well and will be well.

Instead I inhabit my small square of life
tentatively
always looking in the rearview mirror,

afraid that the bikes will fall off and clatter on macadam,
bouncing
once, the way I saw it happen on the way to Maine.

Is this lack of confidence or is it responsibility?

In this age of selfies, I no longer understand the difference.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Invisible Line

Your wounded eyes inform me that by speaking truths untold, I have crossed that invisible line that separates me from you. I step back to reunite us; betray myself to renew your smile: “That wasn’t what I meant.”

~

This was written for this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge in which we were to write a 38-word story ending with the line, “That wasn’t what I meant.”