ENDS & ODDS

ENDS & ODDS:

Every single day....somewhere..... irreplaceable little grandmothers who smell like potpourri, with skin as soft as flour and faces full of dried honesty...work their magic to keep families together. Bless them all!

The clerk looked down when I asked about her day.... She looked sad, but didn't share the weight of it. Sometimes the workplace can be brutal. Sometimes silence is more invasive than a shout. As I watched her smooth control and the perfect placement of her hands and count of change, something stole my breath and jerked for tears, but I, sorry that I couldn't help, did as she did and as she wanted, and what was best for her: I kept quiet and walked away.

Doesn't everyone have a childhood home they loved and remember? I hope so. It may be deep in some rural setting. It may be on the corner of a city block. Wherever it is, it lives on in memory with its teapots and its blankets and its winter jackets hanging by the back door. Perhaps the curtains were lace, and perhaps not, but there are no bodies now in that house, no laughter, no days and nights full of gossips or dreams. The house itself is gone, left to improve in memory, just a slight bulge or depression in earth with the sound of the wind across it, and grass bent over it like uncombed hair.

Be careful with first impressions. It's easy to mistake grit for guilt.

The birds take off like forks in flight, and the wind absorbs the sound of their exit as they ride the soft air toward some warmer or food-friendly place....and here I am, envious, on the ground, picturing the day's responsibility, and taking the size and speed of steps straight down the sidewalk that duty dictates I must take.

I remember being a child, playing at being old. I was curious of my old neighbor’s sensible shoes, her hearing aid, faded, food-stained cotton, and the white in her hair. And I followed her, practiced being stooped, feigned aching joints, and broke a walking stick from bushes. And I muttered like she muttered (as if life was all a game) - “I’m not old yet,” and then I heard my mother’s voice that held firm my brief grip on youth, and I ran home for supper and an early bedtime.

I remember the nutty taste of peanut butter glued to the roof of my mouth, and my tongue nudging it into brown lava, slowing reducing it a still tasty smear. It was a few minutes work for a child between sweepings of barber shop hair where men teased me with their feet, and then forgot I was there enough to release the Niagara-flow of colorful swearing. There was some kind of brutal reality to be found in those jagged words thrown out into the space before the long row of functional shoes, something inexplicable and to remain unexplained or misunderstood for years. No harm done. In my ignorance, I was un-offended.

Sober myself, I come from long exposure to “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” people, in my family and out.. I sipped some, but never slugged it, never drank my share. But I understand the invitation--- an emotional tonic, a sleep provider, a place to let it go, or hide-- so many uses while it crawls deep into the liver of those with hardcore reliance. Thank goodness, most people just pull the “happy” from it, and live productive, normal lives.  

I wish I knew and could remember his name, that swarthy man in a Café in North Dakota, who took the stool next to me after my companion, who I was audibly angry with, went to the toilet. The stranger obviously had a eye out for disruption, but also a salving voice. He didn’t ask a thing of me, just looked at me briefly, then straight ahead and said, “Sometimes you just have to keep going, connect one day to the next, fierce, intransigent, with no safety net, no back-up plan, as irretrievable as a bullet.” I smiled because I thought he heard too much and took my side, but, truth be known, he probably didn’t hear a thing, and spoke of his own uncertainties. Either way, it was good advice. And more than once since, I took it.

I remember those places where the reach of leaves converts into an endless coverlet, where water hems the ground, and there are buzzes in the night, all kinds of animal circuitry, a communication of truth when I’m feeling down and honesty matters most.

I still remember my life before I had a life, when I, an inquisitive child, wondering, asking, not-knowing, play-knowing, turning over rocks to try to see where things all began, or running through a field where plants were losing their body parts, ran toward commotion on the rails, my pupils wide, sharp, my hand raised and waving frantically at a train that knew exactly where it was going.

I remember the dog pen was filled with the turds of half the summer. The air was as thick as a bandage. Panic-sized mosquitoes were biting. And I was ten, and a fecal engineer, catching a stronger whiff with each stroke of my rake, and glad to do it, a volunteer to do it, scraping through the festering, fetid, simmering-together of coon-hunting canine waste, as much for my dad’s approval as for the promised quarter.  

Maybe I’m a loser. Generally speaking, I have lost things, bets, dares, races, keys, money, focus, direction, long ago -- my virginity, but not during a kiss-me-quick cliché. But generally, I move into each tomorrow with substantial familiarity and respect for it’s intricate structure. Who can get everything right anyway?

I like old clothes, fraying fabric, sweater pockets still full with my hands, and the surprise of a dollar bill, better-- a five, and patches and grafts of textiles, and the smell of love rising from the quilt of old memories.  

True, the air sometimes became dangerous with something unreadable, something he might never get around to saying, and instead would grumble, like the rearrangement of furniture. True, he slept with one eye open as if to prove he was still there. True, the relationship ran its course and whatever it was took him away, maybe the Pied Piper, but I look back on it all with gratitude that I didn’t miss one episode of it, that I laughed when he laughed, and it winded us, that I let it all go without one flutter of disappointment because his razor gazes shaved away my dishonesty, and I knew myself without all that debris in my life, and an extraordinary view of things was exposed.

My fantastic daughter and I have always had two halves of the same thought... at least, when she was growing up, and we always wanted to use the bathroom at the same time. 

We are related by blood, but family by loyalty.

We learn as we live, but understand later.

As a child, I was once told I was trying to write on the sidewalk with an old white dog turd. I threw it. The appalling part was not realizing what it was-- but experiencing that it didn't write worth a shit.

 

The snow may come again today. It may silt against my windows, beg to be let into my life, but it will fall in disappointment to the ground, because I will not let go of the warm feelings I have for this gift of another day. Today, in this tight little nut of a house at least, no matter the degree of it, the white storm outside will be disallowed to win.

 

I enjoy eating, I don't count calories. I don't size up portions. My control is internal. I stop eating when the siren of belching begins.

 

I was raw as a child, half-cooked as a young adult, and now, a bit overdone in old age. Each stage has required the good will of strangers and the maximum patience of friends. And a nice plate of cookies didn't hurt.

 

Too often, poor people don't have enough to eat. Frequently, the middle class eats whatever is available. On the other hand, the rich can afford to pay other people to eat for them.

 

My mother was nearly monastic when it came to food preparation, always adhered to the guidelines of healthy, balanced, basic, simple. Engrained in me then, it remains my preference today.

 

We didn't have napkins at the table when I was growing up, but then, we often wore clothes with long sleeves.

 

I ate canned spaghetti tonight. What was I thinking? I didn't even like it all those many years ago. But I ate it. Like my daughter (who had the experience of years of my cooking) always says, "If you put enough butter and cheese on it, you can get anything down."

 

It's so cold again today! Winter bankrupts even the memory of warmth from my bones My head is a hollow can, my chest an empty bucket, each taking the harsh impression of the cold wind as I rush through even the smallest distance between warm spots.

 

Winter is not my favorite. Give me Spring when life returns on schedule, a clever predicament of perennials with names I can't remember. Give me the shy petunias (my mother 's favorite) that gang up but still look like peace stretched out on a picnic blanket. Give me the long, hard look of summer, even the storms that try to bite off all the heads in gardens. I'll take the test of heat that reluctantly yields to the half-time of fall when green life is twisted into brown and the purple-headed thistle hangs out in the empty lot with the broken glass that cuts my bare feet. Give me anything but winter. At least, from the gnawing midst of it, that's what I'm saying now!

 

A Sunday Nap: I darken the room and light a candle for its pale glow and fragrant breath. January midday moans musically outside. I have done all I needed to do out there, and in here as well, and so I drift down through my senses, losing them one by one, clinging a little to the last-- the soft touch of a soft pillow and snuggly blanket so like arms around a newborn, a sweet, comfortable simplicity from a time when a mother's love was all there was.

 

Nearly time for the sun to slide from the darkness and light the path of yet another opportunity. Rise and shine yourself. Accept the challenge.

 

Another day of trying to figure out how to earn existence, of hoping that when you go you will leave behind more than a clutter of useless furniture, a few coins, and various sour smells in the sheets.

 

On an ordinary day, I would push nothing from my path, not the stone anchored in dirt, not the opossum crossing the road, not the football flashing before me from a child at play, not the obstacle created by a man fixing his automobile across the sidewalk. On an ordinary day, I would smile, greet, step aside, go around, because on an ordinary day I want no short cuts and choose the scenic route of life.

 

The Ordinary Experience: We all have memory of pleasure and remembrance of pain. The vulnerable animal of our being knows love and knows despair because the world has offered itself to our imagination and experience, presented opportunity and challenge, drafted potential for learning and improvement, very often suggested, announced our place and way. Sometimes we listen and sometimes not, as we, stumbling, groping, make our way in fine company within the magnifIcent family of things. What a trip! What a ride!

 

Everything we ever own will one day be given over to a different person, different world, different form, another use, another time. Enjoy it, make good use of it while it is yours.

 

I learned much from two men, my father and my soul mate, the importance and application of which increases in their absence, and I wonder, with amazement, how did they know these things?

 

Friendship has been a two-way street of buying lunch, giving rides, borrowing money, but most importantly, it morphed into a mutual deepening of spirit.

 

I wish I was as graceful as my cat. I wish I could fall as naturally, as smoothly, in the controlled abandon of a dignified gravitational event. Instead, I land with a floor-shaking kaboom, "oomph" and "dammit," with arms and legs in all directions, and at least one of them destined to deliver pain for days.

 

Judgment and appetite are guests in my mind. I demand no less than cordial exchange between them.

 

When you sit in the peace and serenity of sunset, with tasks undone and feeling a pang of regret for inactivity, know there is good reason for rest.

 

Life is filled with comedic contradiction. In one tone we women complain about having nothing to wear, in another about trying to figure out where we are going to hang all our clothes.

 

Practice reason during rest. Censure passion with careful movement.

 

You will live closer to joy if you remain mindful of all the ordinary miracles of life.

 

What a shame that what we know in thought we can often not put in comforting words!

 

A good teacher does not ask you to enter his mind in agreement, but that you exercise your own.

 

Bring a big lunch to a debate on viewpoint. It's gonna take a while!



     Night came like a beautiful black man. The moon made eye contact with her, a challenge. 
     A male form appeared in shadow, tall and perfect, but taped shut, his contents hidden, exciting like the fire she started as a kid and loved before it blossomed from its red rose of birth into great destruction, and took the house.
     Here and now she was a prize, not the usual victim of  benign emergencies, not the simple woman who cured it all with peroxide and aspirin, not just another gossip in need of a cheap disaster to reconstruct, not the four-and-a-half foot woman sharp around the edges, who ate like she was trying to knock out her own teeth and wore every calorie of it. 
     She shook off thoughts of food now and looked at him, and strained to listen.
     When he spoke, his tongue stroked the contour of the words that armed him. The vowels and consonants tickled her left ear, then right.  He kissed her cheeks like the light tapping on a keyboard, and found her deep in her mascara. She could feel his heartbeat through her cross-eyed breasts flattered by pleats, as he auditioned for a place in her heart.
     "Yes, yes," she uttered in surrender.
 And then she woke, rolling across a sweaty pillow, and saw the natural night beyond it----
     Her husband stood beside his car, mumbled into his beard, talked to his tennis shoes, swore, punched emptiness, then bent in careless familiarity to prove once again how quickly whiskey-vomit mixes with loose dirt.   
     She groaned, closed her eyes, plumped the pillow with a romance novel under it, and beseeched return of the sweet, hard candy of her dream.